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West Chicago community supports its own during Thanksgiving season

Published: Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 6:00 a.m. CST

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WEST CHICAGO – West Chicago resident Caridad Ancheta needs a job.

After moving to the area two years ago from the Philippines, she has struggled to find employment. She spent some time filling in for a worker on maternity leave at a Des Plaines nursing home, but that position soon became too expensive, as the price of gas rose and the position only offered four-hour work days.

Until Ancheta lands a job, she is finding help where she can, from programs such as the Neighborhood Food Pantry at Crossroads Restoration Church in West Chicago.

“We love it because it helps,” said Ancheta, who has visited the pantry a few times after hearing about it from neighbors.

The pantry at Crossroads Restoration Church is one of several in West Chicago that serves area residents. Others include the New Life Bilingual Church Food Pantry, the West Chicago Church of Christ Food Pantry and the Wayne Township Pantry.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 14 percent of residents fell below the poverty level from 2007 to 2011 in West Chicago. That’s about one percentage point more than the statewide statistic.

As a Neighborhood Food Pantry, the pantry at Crossroads Restoration Church belongs to a network supported by local religious institutions.

The pantry also serves residents of Warrenville and Winfield and receives about 650 visits each month, said site director Ken Walker.

In October, that totaled about 3,384 people receiving pantry services, taking into account the family members each visit supported, Walker said.

Walker has noticed a recent increase in need in the area, with the pantry’s client list doubling during the last two years, he said. The pantry tends to experience a slight growth in demand over the holidays, which is when the pantry also receives more donations.

This year, the Neighborhood Food Pantry will provide Thanksgiving dinners to some of its neediest client families, including 150 that were donated by Central Du­Page Hospital doctors and staff, 250 from Willow Creek Community Church and 100 from Dominicks.

Willow Creek also is providing 250 turkey dinners to West Chicago Elementary School District 33 families as a partner of the district’s WeGo Together for Kids program, which offers services to families and connects them to resources from more than 40 area community partners, said Marjory Lewe-Brady, the district’s director of partnerships for wellness, safety and achievement.

Since 2000, the percentage of low-income students in District 33 has grown from 22.6 percent to about 69 percent in 2013, according to Illinois District Report Card data compiled by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Willow Creek also recently launched a mobile care center service for District 33 families that includes not only food pantry items, but a clothing store as well.

Clothing needs in the district also are addressed through rolling donations of winter coats and other items that staff provide to students in need, based on social worker discretion, Lewe-Brady said.

Community High School District 94 students enrolled in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class will volunteer at a mobile food pantry Dec. 9 sponsored by the Elementary Teachers Association of West Chicago for District 33 families.

Lewe-Brady said that people tend to be more giving around the holidays, but for many West Chicago families, the need exists year-round.

“If they’re hungry in November and December, they’re hungry in January and February,” she said.

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