When our children were young we asked them twice a year to go through their clothes and toys and gather some of them up so that we could give them to those known as the "Needy’s". When the kids finally asked to meet the “Needy’s”, we had to explain that they were not one particular family but a group of families. It was a sad and valuable lesson to learn. So who are the “Needy’s” here?
Let me introduce the “Needy Food" family. Kathie Johnson of the New Lenox Township Food Pantry shared, “As of July 1, 2012, we are serving over 211 families with a total of 742 people. Of that, 308 are children under 18 years of age.” Jennifer Huizinga from New life Church Food Pantry stated “We have been operating the New Life food pantry since November 2006; we have served over 1100 separate families during our 5 years in existence. We serve an average of 141 families per month totaling 822 people. Out of those 822 people, 264 are children under 18. Greg Klabisch from St Jude Catholic Church Food Pantry calculated, “We have served 130 families, which represents 476 people. Of the 476, 184 are children.” The “Needy Food” family tree is quite large. In New lenox they compromise 482 families with approximately 2040 people and of that 1048 are children under 18. All are asking for food!
Our three food pantries are quick to state that the food provided is only a supplement to the families. Kathie Johnson stated that, “Families may visit the Township Pantry once a week/four times a month, but the food may only be enough for a few days. Jennifer Huizinga added “Our recipients are able to visit every three weeks on Wednesday from 4:00-5:30pm. Our recipients receive one, two, or three bags of non-perishable grocery items, paper and personal products depending on the size of the family. Greg Klabisch added, “We provide food every Friday, but individual families are allowed only 1 visit per month. Our families receive depending on the size of their family, the equivalent of 3 – 6 full size brown paper sacks”.
How bad is the need? Members of the New Lenox ShareFest Committee have spoken to their constituents and learned that struggling families have been making trade-offs to meet basic needs. These trade-offs include deferring needed medical care, skipping bill payments, postponing rent or mortgage payments and dipping into retirement savings. Members of the committee along with the food pantry personal have calculated it takes 35,000 food items a month for the New Lenox food pantries to feed the “Needy Food” families.
So, how can you help? Here are three possible action steps.
1) Sort through the non-perishable food items that you can donate. Donations can go to the food pantries in New Lenox at New Lenox Township 1100 S. Cedar Rd., New Life Church Food Pantry 500 S. Gougar Rd., St Jude Catholic Church Food Pantry 241W. Second Ave. Also starting immediately, you can drop off food items at The Flower Basket 117 Church St. 9:00 a.m. -5:00pm daily and 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. on Saturday. We use this as the ShareFest New Lenox mailing address, and owners Sharon and Betty said that when their drivers are delivering flowers, they will also deliver the food to the local panties for you.
2) We have several food drives for the pantries through the year. However, only one, The Scouts Food Drive in November, hit the 35,000 mark that is needed monthly for the pantries. In addition, the summer months are the leanest. We need to help “lift up” the other food drives throughout the year. To help meet that need, The New Lenox Park District, The New Lenox Township, and the New Lenox Rotary Club have combined efforts to “Fill The Township Bus” food drive during Proud American days July 26th-29th. Please bring some non-perishable food items for this drive.
3) A word of encouragement. Imagine that if every person in the New Lenox Township, 50,000 of them, each donated one food item per month, we could sustainably feed the “Needy Food” families and still have 25% that we could tithe to feed our neighbors in need.
Jennifer from New Life Church Food Pantry summed up, “If I could share one thing it would be that the only thing that sustains this food pantry and makes it work are the volunteers. volunteer help and volunteer donations. We really have no other support, and that is why events like ShareFest are vital to the survival of food pantries here in new Lenox. I have witnessed the hearts of the people in New Lenox, and they are amazingly generous and caring. Just give them a need, and they respond even in tough economic times”.
Some of the items of highest need are : peanut butter, jelly ,canned meat such as chicken, turkey, ham, beef, beef stew or chicken stew, ravioli or spaghettios, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti noodles, breakfast cereal, pancake mix & syrup, muffin and bread mix. New Life Church and St. Jude Church also add coffee and drink mixes like Crystal Light, personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes. Jennifer at New Life stated “diapers of any size are always welcome.”
Since its inception ShareFest New Lenox has brought forth the awareness of the unmet needs of hundreds of individuals and families in our community. We also have designated September 1st-11th as “Eleven Days of Giving” and see this as a time of uniting as Proud Americans in compassionate community service for those in need. For more information, please contact us at 815-717-2614.
facebook : www.facebook.com/sharefest.newlenox