HINSDALE – Whether draped in blue or armed with an ax, the common trait among all police officers and firefighters is the uncompromising want to help others in need.
“We’re public safety, and we’re helping people out, and that’s why everybody got in this job to begin with,” Hinsdale Deputy Police Chief Kevin Simpson said. “This is just a different avenue we’ve taken to help the community.”
That avenue of community service took place March 19 when three sectors of the village, including the police and fire departments and HCS Family Services, teamed up to volunteer at Willowbrook’s monthly Mobile Food Pantry at Hinsdale Lake Terrace Apartments, which serves hundreds of families in southwest DuPage County.
About a year ago, Simpson joined the HCS board, which works in cooperation with the Illinois Food Bank and provides social services such as a food pantry in Hinsdale’s Memorial Hall.
“I don’t think a lot of the general public is aware of the extent of their services, and part of that is to educate the immediate area,” he said. “Likewise, there’s a false sense in the community that we work in that there’s little need or [people or families] going hungry.”
Simpson said HCS is always looking for volunteers and sponsorships to work at the food pantries. So, shortly after the holiday season he suggested a joint effort between the Hinsdale Fire Department (HFD) and Hinsdale Police Department (HPD) to fund the mobile food pantry, as well as supply volunteers.
“They [volunteers from each department] were impressed with the number of people that came out, and I said this is nothing,” he said. “Back in the holidays, November and December, when we did the Thanksgiving and Christmas one, there’s 300 plus families that are out there.”
On March 19, Simpson said about 150 families came out to receive an array of non-perishable foods, canned items, frozen meats and bread.
“It has an impact on people,” he said. “Until you’ve done it and experienced [working at a food pantry], you don’t realize the need that’s out there.”
Simpson said the event was overwhelmingly positive and several members of both departments told him that if the pantry ever needs volunteers again, whether sponsored by the departments or not, they would be happy to return.
This was one of the largest joint community outings that the HPD and HFD participated in together, according to Simpson, who added that because of the strong ties each department has to the community, more projects could take place in the future.
“All of that has not only educated me, but I think it’s also brought an awareness to both the police and fire departments,” he said. “We know that there’s a need that exists here and we want to help. This is our home.”