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Need still great at pantries in Grundy County

MORRIS – The holidays are behind us, but the need for food and personal items in Grundy County continue.

Area food pantries said donations typically are the largest during November and December with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for various reasons slow down once the new year rolls around.

“Historically donations go down in January and February,” said Cathy Milne of Help for Hope and formerly with Coal City Clothes Closet. “As weather starts to get nicer and people get out of their house, more in the spring, it will pick back up.”

Residents continue to show up for food and personal items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste and shampoo though.

Donna Larkin Lake with Northern Illinois Food Bank said the drop off in donations is felt at all levels during January and the organization is trying to get the message out that hunger is a year-round need.

“Foods and funds are on peoples minds during the holidays,” Larkin Lake said. “We appreciate that at the holiday time, but that need is ongoing.”

Milne said Help for Hope is focusing its efforts on the working poor and keeping later hours so those coming home from work can still get assistance. She said the majority of residents in her area get their food from the Coal City Food Pantry at Coal City United Methodist Church, so she is focusing more on other needs.

“We really need paper products like toilet paper, paper towels,” Milne said. “We also need laundry and dish washing soap, and nonperishable food items since we don’t have a refrigerator.”

Those needing assistance or who would like to donate can contact Help for Hope at 815-370-7817.

Crystal Nelson, with the food pantry run by the Church of Hope in Gardner, said she helped 296 families during 2014 and already has helped 10 families this year. The first two she gave food to on New Year’s Day.

“We had four families just yesterday. It’s hard times, that’s for sure,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she gets help from St. Lawrence Catholic Church in South Wilmington, as well as donations from area residents.

Church of Hope pantry services residents in Gardner-South Wilmington High School District, which includes residents from Gardner, South Wilmington, East Brooklyn, Braceville and Central City.

Residents in need in the area or those wishing to donate can call the Church of Hope to make arrangements at 815-237-8312.

Joann Waisath, with the Mazon Food Pantry located at Park Street Church in Mazon, serves residents who live in the Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Grade School District.

She said cereal is the No. 1 need at the pantry, with meat being a close second, followed by paper products and soap.

Waisath said residents in her area are referred to the pantry when they contact We Care of Grundy County, or they learn of the pantry through word of mouth.

The pantry is run with donations from the townships, Grundy County Farm Bureau, and food drives from local schools and groups.

“Our community is very generous,” she said.

If someone is in need or would like to donate, call Park Street Church in Mazon to make arrangements at 815-448-5514.

We Care of Grundy County’s food pantry services those in Morris with everything from food to toilet paper and personal items.

Executive Director Denise Gaska, said compared to the rest of the year the donations drop in January, but because We Care gets so many holiday donations it usually holds them over. The summer months is where they see their biggest needs.

“We see the biggest need in summer when kids aren’t getting a free lunch at school so the needs are greater at home,” Gaska said.

Lori Sandgren, with We Care, said it is able to get food cheaper through Northern Illinois Food Bank than most people who donate can buy it for at the store, so financial donations are always greatly appreciated.

However, We Care can’t always order items like toilet paper and laundry soap due to lack of product, so they look to others for help with those donations.

Sandgren said the Morris Lions Club donates toilet paper twice a month, which really helps meet the need.

“These items are still necessary, and every family gets them if we have them, so we use more of those non-food items,” Sandgren said. “Non-food donations are always good.”

She said what many people don’t realize is that the LINK card low-income residents use to purchase food with their SNAP benefits do not cover anything other than food, which places those items on a high priority list for many residents.

For assistance or to donate to We Care of Grundy County, call 815-942-6389, ext. 3, for Lori or Wendy.

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