Jeff Eberhard had an idea to help the hungry.
The owner of E-Z Auto in Joliet began to notice nearby residents with various needs and started offering backpacks of food, clothing, and other necessities. That first step at helping developed into the Micro Pantry movement.
Now, Eberhard will be in Springfield on Nov.14 to receive a Governor’s Hometown Award, and as a candidate for the Governor’s Cup Award. He was nominated by Will County Health Department for his Micro Pantry innovation.
“I was a young type-A; go to work, do your job, work hard, come home," said Eberhard, who owns E-Z Auto in Joliet. "But life has a way of seasoning you... So many were too embarrassed or prideful to ask for help, or did not want the hassle completing paperwork. The Micro Pantries allow them to just stop by and take what they need for their families and children.”
Each Micro Pantry is created out of wood, with three shelves, double doors, and a shingled roof and siding. The pantries are open 24 hours per day, allowing for the anonymous donation of food by those that give and the anonymous pick-up of food for those in need, with the slogan “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
The first Micro Pantry was installed at E-Z Auto Sales in December of 2016. Today the Will, Grundy, and LaSalle County areas have a total of 60 Micro Pantries.
In Morris, the pantries can be found at the Morris Public Library, the Grundy County Health Department, Living Water Nazarene Church and Premiere Academy.
A full list of Micro Pantry locations is available at https://arcg.is/1uiXCi.
As for his nomination, Eberhard said he's more concerned getting the Micro Pantry movement more attention and used throughout the state.
“We’ve been trying to get into Springfield to talk about this forever, but it depends on who you know and the legitimacy you have," he said. "The real award winners are those who place these Micro Pantries outside their organizations and adopt them, stock them, and care for them as their own.”
Since 1983, the Governor’s Hometown Awards (GHTA) program gives formal recognition to those who have contributed to projects that improved their community’s quality of life. These projects are sponsored by local units of government that had strong volunteer support, met a need, and made a definitive impact; thereby generating a positive outcome in the community and by extension, the state.