Aurora Holiday Food Drive starts up again this week
By Steve Lord email@example.com October 27, 2013 7:48PM
A food pantry official shows the new shelving area, coolers and freezers in what will be the area where clients will shop. | Steve Lord~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2013 6:41AM
AURORA — The sixth annual Holiday Food Drive in Aurora begins Friday, with some new twists.
The annual drive runs each year from Nov. 1 through the day before Thanksgiving — this year, that’s Wednesday, Nov. 27.
It’s designed to stock the shelves at the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry for the coming year, and this year it also will benefit the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry in Aurora.
It’s part of an important November for the Interfaith Food Pantry, which will open its new facility on Jericho Road during the month. Officials are planning their first distribution from the new facility Nov. 18, and will be able to bring food gathered from the food drive to the new facility immediately, instead of having to store it in a separate warehouse and other places.
“The food drive is so important,” said Marilyn Weisner, Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry director. “Now we have room for all the food.”
The pantry is moving out of its current location in Hesed House, 659 S. River St., where it will continue distributions until the first one at the new location. This year, the Thanksgiving turkey distribution still will take place at the River Street location.
Need for the food pantry continues to grow. When the first Holiday Food Drive started in 2008, the pantry provided food for about 300 families a week, Weisner said. Now, it provides food to 800 families — about a 150 percent increase in five years.
Put another way, the amount of food the pantry distributes has increased by about half-a-million pounds each year through 2012. By the end of 2013, Weisner said the pantry expects it will have distributed almost 2.5 million pounds of food for the year.
“In terms of increase, the economy is picking up a bit, but we have 150 new families registering for food for the first time each month,” she said.
The drive takes place at two Aurora grocery stores: Prisco’s Fine Foods, 1108 Prairie St., Aurora; and Cermak Fresh Market, 1250 N. Lake St., Aurora.
Bags are pre-assembled at each location, in $5, $10 and $15 denominations. People can buy the bags as they go through the grocery checkout line.
What’s needed at each store are volunteers. They hand out fliers to shoppers as they come into the store, to make them aware the drive is going on.
Food drive organizers have two-hour volunteer slots each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the duration of the food drive. This year, people can up online by going to: http://Annualholidayfooddrive.com
They also can sign up, as in the past, by contacting organizer Cheryl Kessler, at the office of Dan Dolan, another drive organizer, at 630-801-8800, ext. 109. People also can email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We encourage groups, companies, organizations to take a full day or days and fill the time slots with their employees or group members,” Kessler said. “This is a great way to get out and show any organization’s willingness to help within their own community.”
In the past, many organizations have held their own drives, too, to contribute to the overall drive.
One of the new twists in this year’s food drive is that the effort has a guardian angel, who is anonymous so far, willing to make a corporate match of everything collected, Dolan said.
At this point, there is no more information about it, but Dolan said this week “there is more to come on that.”
But it has prompted him to refer to the drive as the Annual Holiday Food Drive — Fill the Warehouse Matching Pallet program, which will also include the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.
Both the Wilkinson and Aurora Interfaith Food pantries will participate in two, four-hour live radio remote events to push donations. The first will be Nov. 12 at the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, and the second will be Nov. 21 at the new Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry location on Jericho Road.
Officials are putting on the finishing touches at the new pantry location this week, finishing putting up shelving, readying the warehouse for donations and getting the front reception area ready for food clients.
The new reception area includes private offices to interview new clients, an inside waiting area so people no longer have to wait in the cold, and an area for kids to play.
At the River Street location, volunteers filled bags for clients from the shelves, giving them the bags when finished. Now, clients will be able to shop themselves, just as they would at the grocery store. They will get food off the shelves, go to the coolers and freezers to get meat and other perishables, then checkout.
“It will be like a little supermarket,” Dolan said. “This building is one heck of an asset for the community.”
“And the community did it,” Weisner said. “This has truly been a community project.”