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Aurora merchants donate Thanksgiving dinners

DeenBess Sherman

Deena Bess Sherman

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Updated: December 19, 2012 11:26AM

No one wants to see their neighbors hungry during the holidays. Thankfully there are many committed Aurorans working to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Maybe you’ve noticed the pre-packaged bags of food in Aurora at Prisco’s Fine Foods, Cermak Market, Jewel on Eola Road, or in Oswego at the Jewel on Douglas Road. For a donation of $5 or more, you can help provide food for those who might otherwise miss out on a Thanksgiving dinner.

Five years ago Dan T. Dolan began this project with the help of Prisco’s Fine Foods, The Beacon-News, Douglas Flooring, the River radio station Cano Container. They were joined in subsequent years by Cermak Market, the Jewel stores mentioned, and now Provena Mercy Center.

“Our effort is completely volunteer driven,” said Cheryl Kessler of Dolan and Murphy Inc. “It not only benefits the community, but also relies on the community for volunteers to pass out flyers.” She noted they were still looking for volunteers between now and Nov. 21.

Aurora firefighters pick up and transport the food, so I spoke with Dan Osman, who heads up that part of the project. He mentioned that Aurora firefighters are also partnering with a local restaurant, 2 Cafe at 2290 Ogden Ave. (at the corner of Montgomery Road) in Aurora to feed the hungry. If you stop in Saturday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a non-perishable food donation, you will get 20 percent off on your meal, plus firefighters will be waiting tables. “I can’t promise how good the service will be,” said Osman with a laugh, “but it’s for a good cause.”

When I asked Marilyn Weisner, executive director of the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry, about other Thanksgiving efforts, she told me “Dart Container and Senior Industries donate frozen turkeys to us every year and will again, this year. Weldstar also made a significant monetary donation for us to purchase turkeys.”

After Thanksgiving, Prisco begins his 19th year of collaboration with the Antone Pigatti Charity. “Jerry Pigatti approached me in 1993 with the idea of doing a community food drive in honor of his late father,” said Prisco. That year they gave away 46 food boxes, by 2011 it had grown to 346 boxes.

Prisco’s Fine Foods supplies the food and makes the arrangements with various local churches and schools, then coordinates the distribution. Prisco figures our schools and churches are the best source for information about who might go hungry this time of year.

One of the unique things about these boxes is that, together with the basic turkey and canned goods, they include fresh fruits and vegetables — something that is extremely difficult for food pantries to do. Plus some candy and treats.

The project is completely funded by the Prisco and Pigatti families and their associates.

“It’s a great feeling to able to give back to the community that has sustained our family and team members for over 86 years. To us it’s important to reach folks in need who seem to somehow ‘fall through the cracks’ of other charitable efforts.”

Pigatti told me has father was “an extremely charitable person who believed in Paying It Forward.” Since they began, 2,340 turkey baskets have been given to the poor in Aurora. “My father would be so very proud,” said Pigatti.

“I’m personally grateful to Jerry Pigatti for his innovation, his friendship, and his support as the major donor in this city-wide effort,” said Prisco.

So if you want to make sure healthy food gets to those who need it during the upcoming holidays, be sure and stop at a participating grocery store between now and Nov. 21. If you can help hand out flyers, call Kessler at 630-801-8800 ext. 109. If you’d like to help the firefighters, I’ll see you at 2 Cafe Saturday. To help with Christmas boxes (or nominate a family), call 630-264-9400.

Let’s make sure no one is hungry this holiday season.

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