DOWNERS GROVE – For the hundreds of families the Downers Grove Area FISH Food Pantry supports on a weekly basis, so much depends on a red cargo van.
Volunteers like Alan Chandler drive the van about 200 miles a week to area grocery stores, churches, schools and other food donors, hauling back hundreds of pounds of food to the pantry for distribution.
Unfortunately, the 1999 Ford has seen better days.
"It's nickel-and-diming us to death," Chandler said.
Another volunteer, June Miller, said the charity is making repairs necessary to keep it running, but that it is clearly in need of a new – or at least newer – van.
"We just had a new starter [installed]," Miller said. "They had gone out to make their pick up, gone over to the store, and it wouldn't start to come back to the pantry. And I guess they had to switch loads, and it had to be towed in to have that fixed. It's things like that that are going wrong."
This holiday season, FISH is putting out an appeal to anyone who might be able to donate a better cargo van, or offer a used one for sale at discount.
"We have a certain amount that we can pay," Miller said. "We just can't pay full price for a brand new one."
A donation would be tax-deductible.
Miller said the deteriorating van, which has about 114,000 miles of city driving, also creates safety concerns.
FISH also had to replace the brakes, which recently went out as someone was driving it.
There is also exhaust that creeps into the vehicle, she said, the heat and AC only work on full blast. It also needs new bearings, among other repairs.
"It's a rust bucket," Miller said. "We're having the thing looked over by a person in town who does our repairs. And we're getting a full evaluation with a price tag."
FISH supports a regular clientele of 135 families with food, in addition to other community support.
"Those regular customers come down to the basement and pick up the bag they're entitled, too," she said. "But up on the street level, we have all kinds of fresh food that comes from the grocery store that [is distributed]. Potatoes and apples and bread by the pallet load, is sitting there. Anything left over from up stairs goes to senior housing or is driven down to Romeoville to another pantry. Nothing is wasted."
FISH Food Pantry helps families from Downers Grove, Lisle and Darien with food. Families from Westmont and Woodridge are entitled to clothing and other help.
How to help
Call the FISH Food Pantry at 630-964-7776.