Mitzvot from the Heart: Lilly Shaikun

A family trip to the nation’s capital inspired Lilly Shaikun  to want to help the homeless through her mitzvah project. 

Lilly Shaikun, Congregation Shaare Emeth

When Lilly was seven years old, she and her family were in Washington D.C. and witnessed what it was like to be homeless. She saw several men and women sleeping on park benches while others were just hanging out in large groups in the streets.

Needless to say, Lilly was very curious and had a million questions for her parents, Amy and Louis Shaikun of Wildwood. “Louis and I took this opportunity to educate our children and demonstrate the meaning of mitzvah,” said Amy. They took Lilly, her brother and cousins to the streets one evening and brought several homeless people a hot meal. “The smiles on the children’s faces as well as the homeless were priceless,” she added.

During the remainder of their visit in D.C. Lilly wanted to continue providing food to the homeless but was unable to. This experience led her parents to finding opportunities to help the homeless at home in St. Louis with the Dream Center Street Ministry. Wanting to remind Lilly and her brother of how fortunate they were and what it meant to give to others and not always be on the receiving end, the Shaikun family spent a cold Friday evening with the ministry seeking out the homeless and providing them with food, warm blankets and a sense of hope. 

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When it came time for Lilly to choose a mitzvah project, she remembered how inspired she felt when helping the homeless and giving back to the community. Once again, Lilly chose to work with the Dream Center Street Ministry.

The Dream Center Street Ministry meets both the physical and spiritual needs of homeless men, women, and children on the streets of St. Louis. They seek out the homeless on street corners, under tunnels, in homeless shelters and group homes. Theyshare the love of Jesus by providing practical items like food, drinks, blankets, and clothing as well as prayer.

Lilly spent several Friday evenings traveling with a trained ministry team reaching out to the people of the inner city. For about three hours the staff shared the love of God, as Lilly and other volunteers handed out the basic necessities, information about the Dream Center, and a smile to the men, women and children living on the streets. 

“As I reflect on my experience and my involvement with the Dream Center, I realized how fortunate I am to have my basic needs met each day,” said Lilly, a student at Wildwood Middle School. “It also made me reflect on how much I appreciate my parents for working hard each day and providing for my family. I am thankful for the roof over my head, unlimited food choices, my health and my education. 

“After spending time with the homeless and witnessing that their basic needs were not being met, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to give to those in need and share with them a sense of hope and prayer. I have learned the importance of developing solid relationships with people and doing for others is more important than any ‘thing’ that can be bought.”