Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 08 2014

Flowers Before Bread

Jill Formeister

“The ability to actually interact with them [the elderly] at outreach events and show our ‘hospitality’ - to create bonds and friendship” was one factor that led to Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly as the Greater Midwest Chapter’s 2014 charity. Their motto, flowers before bread, expresses the philosophy that people need the special pleasures in life in addition to the basic necessities.

Sarah Opple, chair of the Community Services Committee and Director of Group Sales at Swissotel Chicago, identified other considerations. “We truly felt they had a real need for our monetary and in-kind donations,” she said. “Most if not all are isolated with potentially little or no family to support them, so we felt we could really have a big impact.”

The May 8 Coffee Club is the first 2014 GMC event with Little Brothers. Every Thursday, the elderly are invited to come and enjoy Coffee Club with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly. Volunteer slots have been filled for this free event, which features food, fun, volunteers, and, of course, coffee. The Coffee Club provides conversation and community for those who attend. Watch this video for an inside-look at the Coffee Club events held at their facility at 355 N. Ashland in Chicago.

Community Services is working with Little Brothers to identify three other Coffee Club dates as PCMA-sponsored days this year. Other plans include:

  • A summer event outside of the club, but somewhere in the city, possibly in late July or early August
  • A Food Depository Day in November for Service-In-Sync, with proceeds going to Little Brothers.
  • A holiday event in early December, either at the Little Brothers facility or off-site.
  • “Shaking up” the Bowl-A-Thon, scheduled for Nov. 5.

The committee set $5,000 as the ambitious goal for raffle sales this year and is considering creative means of promoting the raffles in advance. GMC members can help by purchasing tickets and providing raffle items.

Donations of gift cards ($10, $20, $25 for stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, Jewel, where the recipients can purchase food and other items are helpful. Furniture donations are needed for the new Little Brothers facility in Batavia. The committee is checking whether the charity can pick up these large donations.

To donate an item, share your ideas, or ask about participation in future events, contact Kris Marinelli Jebson or Keri Kelly.


Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly was started in France in 1946 by Frenchman Armand Marquiset as Les petits frères des Pauvres (Little Brothers of the Poor). The organization served elderly Parisians who had lost their savings and family members in World War II. His motto, flowers before bread, expresses the spirit that man does not live by bread alone; it is the human touch that makes life worth living.

Today, Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly serves elderly in seven U.S. cities and eight countries around the world. The Chicago Chapter is located at 355 N. Ashland Avenue in a multi-purpose facility purchased in 1998. This facility is transformed regularly into a place of celebration for holidays, Wednesday luncheons, and countless social gatherings held all year long.

Since 1959, Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter’s mission, philosophy, programs and activities remain focused on alleviating loneliness among elders. The need for social interaction is critical to the human spirit and the charity believes that nurturing the soul is as important as feeding the body. Although the number of elders served has grown by more than 35% in the last five years, Little Brothers’ mission remains firm – to relieve isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

Greater Midwest Chapter