Local food pantries prepare for holiday of giving
The end of the year is often peak season for local nonprofits, and this year is no different, according to area food pantries.
“People just naturally think of helping their neighbors during the holidays, so we’re front and center in their minds,” said Melissa Travis, senior director of programming at the People’s Resource Center (PRC), which serves those in need throughout DuPage County.
Travis said the PRC’s food pantries in Wheaton and Westmont aim to serve more than 3,400 families during November. Currently, the PRC is collecting donations to provide Thanksgiving dinners for those who use its services, which have become increasingly necessary recently.
“One thing we are finding this year is that a lot of government assistance for families is decreasing, so private organizations have to pick up some of the slack,” she said. “We’re certainly feeling that, but we are up to the challenge.”
The Wayne Township Food Pantry will provide a mobile pantry Nov. 25, at which it will distribute Thanksgiving meal boxes with the assistance of the Bartlett Lion’s Club. The organization’s goal is to give out more than 200 boxes by Christmas.
For many groups, the holiday season starts in August, said Juanita Martinez, director of general assistance and food pantry for Wayne Township. Local nonprofits begin to offer fundraising partnerships, donations start coming in and staff project how many people they will be able to help in the coming months.
Susan Papiersky, executive director of the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, said that the organization will give out 550 Thanksgiving boxes at its annual drive-through pick up on Nov. 22, thanks to generous donations and volunteers.
“People just come out of the woodworks. It’s the giving time of year and people want to help,” she said. “And on the other side, I get to see what we can do for the clients this time of year.”
Pantry aid can free up money for clients to pay bills or buy holiday gifts for friends and family, she said.
But some nonprofits struggle to find volunteers for their programming the rest of the year, said DuPage County Director of Community Services Mary Keating. Holidays are a great time to raise awareness for organizations, but she hopes that residents spend an extra minute or two thinking about how they could continue their support, she said.
“It’s a good opportunity for nonprofits to serve holiday needs of clients, but also a time to get the message to volunteers and donors that the need is year-round,” Keating said. “A person who is hungry on Thanksgiving is probably just as hungry two weeks after the new year.”
Local food pantries to consider donating to or getting involved with:
• Humanitarian Service Project – Carol Stream
• Interfaith Pantry – Wheaton and Carol Stream
• Wayne Township Pantry – West Chicago
• New Life Bilingual Food Pantry – West Chicago
• Glen Ellyn Food Pantry – Glen Ellyn
To find more volunteer opportunities during the holiday season and year-round, visit www.GivingDuPage.org.