DWIGHT – Earth Angels.
That’s what Judy Pershey calls the volunteers who help her through Grapevine Mission to provide help to residents in the area.
“Our members are called earth angels, because they are the wings,” Pershey said. “And they put wind in mine.”
The Grapevine Mission is a nonprofit organization founded by Judy and Mark Pershey of Dwight in April 2006. Judy’s sister, the late Diana Holderfield, was the first board member. The organization helps local families by delivering food, providing “dignity packs,” and other services.
“We’re located in Dwight, but we serve all areas,” Pershey said. “We help with food, clothes, rent, utilities, whatever our budget allows us to do.”
Pershey runs the organization from her home and from the back of a 14-foot truck she uses to go to Bloomington to get food and bring back to the area to deliver to those in need.
“We are trying desperately to get into a building,” she said. “Until then, we deliver the food with help from volunteers to those that need it when we pick it up once a month.”
The organization one of its four annual fundraisers Saturday at the Moose Lodge in Morris. The event included auctions, and prizes through games to those who came out to support their cause.
Pershey saw the need for the organization when her husband was off work due to disability.
“My husband was off on disability and I realized the need,” she said. “I thought, how do people do it?”
As a low-income housing manager and former volunteer of another local nonprofit, she knew there was a need – she just didn’t realize how big, and oftentimes how basic the need was.
She networks with about 30 active earth angels on a Facebook page that only they can see. When need arises they post it and get to work to find a solution.
She said one of her clients had a kitchen fire, and the group was able to network and find a stove through Coal City Clothes Closet for the client.
All the services are free, and she said it is a neighbors-helping-neighbors mentality.
“Seeing people, especially children going without what they need, that and my faith keeps me doing it. I would give up and quit if not for that,” Pershey said.
While the organization sees many calls for rent assistance, its small budget doesn’t allow help often in that area, but they are able to provide other items to help a client use money toward rent they typically would have spent elsewhere.
“Dignity packs are a big thing we do. They have items like shampoo, toilet paper and tampons, things people need to live with dignity, that they oftentimes don’t have the money to buy,” she said.
Pershey said she provides clients with a questionnaire that asks “If you could go to a store and get anything, what’s the first four things you would buy?”
She said the answers aren’t for items like a flat screen TV, but things like shampoo, toilet paper and laundry soap.
“They have been a big blessing in our lives, they’ve done so much,” said Deb, a client from Dwight. “It’s great to work with people who don’t judge you.”
The music at Saturday’s auction was donated by Nick and Connie Kowalski, owners of Aces Wild Karaoke who have volunteered their services for past fundraisers.
“I feel they help people when in need, they helped a friend of ours personally, so I like to give back to them,” Connie said.
Nick said he is grateful that organizations like Grapevine Mission exist to help people get through rough times that are often no fault of their own.
Lori Cooper of Morris has volunteered with with the organization for two years, and was on hand helping at the event.
“I was off work and Judy had [found a homeless person an apartment] and got furniture donated, but they needed a way to deliver it,” Cooper said. “I thought I can do that, and since then I’ve done more and more.”
She said seeing the faces of the people who have a box of food delivered to their door is priceless and keeps in the forefront what the mission is about.
In 2013, Grapevine Mission delivered more than 1,000 meals to low-income, seniors and disabled households. It also provided more than 25 families with holiday meals, extra groceries and gifts for children.
Saturday’s event raised just under $1,600, Pershey said, and now the organization is gearing up for its next event in May.
Grapevine Mission allows clients to take what they need from its donated items, and then hold a garage sale during Coal City All Town Sales to raise money to help in other areas.
Grapevine accepts new and gently used items such as clothing, dishes, household, jewelry, furniture, art and collectibles for this event.
Grapevine Mission Needs List
Tow-behind covered trailer, sheets of plywood, generator for back-up freezers, commercial storage space, postage stamps and office supplies, gift cards for gas or personal items.
To donate to Grapevine mission mail a tax deductible contribution to: Grapevine Mission, PO Box 256, Dwight, IL 60420; visit grapevinemission.org; or call 815-584-3472.