IN PREPARATION FOR the Coal City Food Pantry’s annual holiday food and gift distribution, Rich Kapinus sorts the various non-perishable food items collected during the door-to-door drive sponsored by Cub Scout Pack 466. The annual food drive generated around 11,000 pounds of food and household items for the pantry distribution.
Ann Gill Editor
The holiday season will be made a bit brighter for over 150 local families thanks to the generosity of their neighbors.
Once again the community came together to provide the Coal City Food Pantry with the tools it needs to put food on the table and gifts under the tree.
The number of families being served by the pantry continues to increase. On average the pantry assists 120-125 families each month and the need increases during the holidays. This year's holiday distribution will aid 155 families, including 128 children.
Food Pantry board member and volunteer Judy Hittle said it's through the support of the community that the organization is able to assist the less fortunate within the Unit #1 School District.
The annual holiday food and gift distribution is set for Saturday, Dec. 8, so local volunteers are gathering at the Berst Center this week to sort and pack groceries and gifts.
The products presented to families represent donations collected from the community, the majority of items received through a door-to-door food drive organized by Cub Scout Pack 446.
Cub Master John Cairns reports the Dec. 2 drive collected nearly 11,000 pounds of food.
"It's absolutely the most I've seen," Cairns said.
"We're very pleased with the response," Hittle said as she looked around the room at the thousands of grocery bags filled with non-perishable food items and household supplies.
Coal City's Cub Scout Pack, chartered by the Coal City Lions Club, has organized the annual drive for more than 20 years. Cairns said this year's effort was led by scout parents Julie Anderson and Renee Super.
Around 150 local Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts collected the sacks of food from Coal City, Diamond and Carbon Hill with the help of several youth organizations.
Organizers say there was a good selection of items donated this year. The cake mixes, soups, vegetables, peanut butter, cereal and pancake mixes will be packed into boxes and handed out on Saturday.
Hittle said the amount of food handed out is based on the size of a family. On average a family will receive two to three boxes of food. All recipients are also provided with a ham and a $10 grocery gift card. And as in the past, a local couple has donated loafs of bread to be given out.
In addition to the food boxes families with children ages 18 and under will also receive gifts. The packages are being provided by the congregations from local churches.
Hittle said recipients will collect their items from the Berst Center on Saturday morning at the same time some packages will be delivered to those who are homebound or without transportation. She notes that the pantry is seeing an increase in people without transportation.
As volunteers were sorting the donated items on Monday, food pantry board members were reviewing the list of business, organizations and individuals who have helped the cause with a monetary donation.
Organizers say there are a number of generous individuals who support the pantry not only during the holidays but throughout the year.
According to board member Barb Kent, the food panty operates on a budget of around $35,000 and over $4,000 of that is for the holiday distribution.
Coal City Food Pantry is a year round program to help families in need. The pantry, located at Coal City Methodist Church, is open two days a week and allows families to shop its shelves once a month. Those who seek assistance also receive a monthly voucher to Berkot's Super Foods. The doors to the pantry are open every Monday from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Thursday.
Hittle said the pantry works to get local residents the items they need.
"We're here to help them get to the next paycheck or food stamp distribution," she said.
In the past six years the number of families being served on a monthly basis has increased from 40 to 125.
"There is always a need for assistance and we what we can to service families," Hittle said.
Individuals, businesses and organizations that would like to assist the pantry in its efforts can make monetary donations to the Coal City Food Pantry throughout the year and can forward them to the Methodist Church, 6805 E. McArdle Rd., Coal City, IL 60416.
Donations on non-perishable food items, paper products and personal care items are also accepted throughout the year and can be delivered to the church.
Individuals interested in learning more about the pantry or to request assistance can contact Kent at 915-942-4405.
Volunteers are still needed to help pack food and gift boxes this week. The work will commence each morning at the Assumption Parish Berst Center on Kankakee Street at 9 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m.