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Food Pantries Brace for Uptick in Demand

Clothing and toys are also collected for distribution to needy families in the area.

Volunteer Sharon Gressick surveyed the food pantry at . Shelves were stocked with cereal, pasta and canned goods, and the freezer was filled with bread and cakes donated from .

It was the week before Thanksgiving, and four days before the church would hold its monthly distribution to needy families.

“We serve about 170 families a month from the pantry, but we’ve served as much as 250 families,” she said. She glanced at the pantry’s shelves again, then said, “It could be bad again because Thanksgiving and Christmas are our biggest months.”

Gressick’s husband, Ted, who also volunteers with the food pantry, explained that guests can come to the food pantry every month. “We don’t stop anyone from getting food,” he said, adding that every family gets enough food to last about one week. Guests must present identification and live within the church’s boundaries to receive food.

Volunteers sort and distribute food. “Working at the pantry is a great service opportunity,” Ted said.

The church’s food pantry distributes food on the third Saturday of every month, from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Donations for St. Mary’s food pantry, which is run by St. Vincent De Paul Society, can be dropped off at the church’s rectory hall and in collection boxes inside the church.

‘We don’t know how many people we’ll have’

food pantry distributes food to needy families from 9:30 a.m. to noon every Thursday. People from the surrounding area can come to the church and receive enough food for about one week.

“We don’t know how many people we’ll have every week, but we usually get between 30 and 40 families every week,” Charlene Vanderhulst, Kingswood’s administrative coordinator, said. “We have a constant need to fill the pantry.

Food can be dropped off at the church at any time. In addition, members of the church and schools in the area hold food drives to help Kingswood’s pantry.

“We get donations any way we can,” Vanderhulst said. Cash donations also are used to purchase food for the pantry at . In addition, and Sunset Foods donate bread on Wednesday nights for distribution on Thursday. Red wagons are used to help guests bring their food to their cars.

In addition to donations of food and money, Vanderhulst noted the pantry needs translators, especially those who speak Russian or Spanish. “We have many volunteer opportunities for people in the community, and any group can do a food drive for our pantry,” she said.

Guests need a proof of address, and can use the pantry only three times per year.

“We have to have this limit because otherwise we’ll run out of food,” Vanderhulst said.

‘The end of the year is a time of goodwill’

With separate bins for food, clothing and toys, is ready to distribute donations to the needy in the community.

“The end of the year is a time of goodwill,” Lois Brimmer, Temple Chai’s receptionist, said, adding that all donated food will be distributed to pantries in the area, and all donated coats will be given to PADS Lake County.

Temple Chai’s “Dreidel Do-Gooder” is a toy drive in connection with Jewish Child & Family Services. Cut-out paper dreidels are attached to a board in the temple’s lobby, with each dreidel containing a child’s wish for a gift. Donors select a dreidel, purchase the gift, then leave the gift in Temple Chai’s lobby for distribution. All gifts will be collected until Nov. 28. Requests range from store-specific gift cards to scooters and action figures.

“We’ve encouraged congregants to get creative ways to collect food, clothing and toys for those in need,” Rabbi Alison Abrams said. “People have included inserts in their invitations for bar mitzvahs requesting donations.”

Vernon, Wheeling townships seek donations

’s food pantry is seeking donations to serve the needs of many families in the community.

“We are serving more families this year, and we’re serving more people around the township, too,” William Peterson, Vernon Township’s supervisor, said.

To receive donated food, proof of residency is required. Food is distributed from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. Peterson estimated the township serves 300 families each month.

“Most of the people who use the food pantry are senior citizens. The food pantry is a regular stop for them,” he said.

is preparing for an increase in demand.

“We typically serve between 200 and 250 families per month,” said Maryann Hernandez, general assistant caseworker and pantry coordinator. “I’m expecting this number to go up in the next few months because of the economy.”

Not all guests use the food pantry; Hernandez noted that some might only use the pantry once every other month.

According to Wheeling Township’s website, “an intake interview appointment with a Township caseworker will determine eligibility, frequency of visits, and the quantity of food to be disbursed.”

“Our township has had a lot of food drives, and it’s nice it’s such a generous community,” Hernandez said.

“While many of our clients are on food stamps, they need personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and paper products,” she continued. “You need supplies to keep yourself clean, so you can feel good about yourself.”

Other places to donate food, clothing and toys

A tree in Panera Bread has been set up for people to place donations of scarves, hats, gloves and socks for . The clothing drive was set to end on Nov. 15, but general manager Rebecca Laudick extended it to Nov. 23.

“We want people to know we’re here to support the community, and that we’re family-oriented,” she explained. “Omni helps single moms with infants, all the way up to adolescents. It’s a wide variety there, and it’s always a great cause to support."

In addition, the is participating in the Toys for Tots program. New, unwrapped toys that are donated will be distributed as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community. Drop-off boxes are available at Village Hall, the and the .

Ronna Leibach November 17, 2011 at 08:54 PM
A few additions to food pantries in our area: Congregation Beth Am operates a Food Pantry the last Sunday of every month from 1-3pm. Donations food for the pantry can be dropped off at Beth Am during office hours or during Hebrew/Religious School, Mon 9-5, Tues 9-8, Wed 9-6, Thur 9-5, Fri 9-3 or Sun 9:30-11:30am. Contact 847-459-1677 or email RabbiAdmin@congregation-betham. The Ark, which provides free social and medical services to help distressed members of our Chicagoland Jewish family return to self-sufficiency, has recently opened an office at 3100 Dundee in Northbrook. In addition to social services, it features a kosher food pantry. For questions, call 773-973-1008 or contact mweinberger@arkchicago.org. In addition to Temple Chai, Congregation Beth Judea also supports the JCFS Hanukkah gift drive. Their recent Mitzvah Day collected food baskets for both the Vernon and Wheeling Township Thanksgiving programs, as well as donation to PADS and other local agencies suppporting those who are in economic difficulty. Submitted by Ronna Leibach, JUF/JF Northwest Suburban Coordinator, RonnaLeibach@juf.org
Cristel Mohrman (Editor) November 18, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Thanks, Ronna, for letting us know! If anyone else knows of a way to help out, please share it with the community by posting a comment here!
Amy Affrunti December 25, 2011 at 10:49 AM
I was wondering if you could give me some suggestions. I have 4 or 5 heavy winter coats in great conditions, as well as some other clothes. I'm a bit shocked to find that most places stopped accepting coats before Christmas. There are still many cold months ahead of us and I would hate to throw these away when there are people in need of warmth. Is there anywhere I can donate these items there they will be given to those in need and not "sold" to people in need at low prices?

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