Over the past few years, the economic crisis in the U.S. has meant that more people than ever are struggling to feed their families – and property owners are helplessly watching the value of their homes, buildings and land plummet.
But if a silver lining can be found in the dark economic clouds, it’s that those same decreasing property values have made it possible for the to purchase a building to serve its ever-growing number of clients.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Maria Spaeth, executive director of the food pantry. “As a board, we had projected that, in time, we would have to have our own building. But we did not think it would be this soon.”
Spaeth projects that by the end of the year, the food pantry will move out of its facility on Deer Street and into a building three times larger on nearby Beaver Street. Through a combination of donations and grant funds amassed over the years, the organization was able to purchase the 36,000-square-foot industrial building for $217,000, she said.
Renovations are under way at the pantry’s future location, which will offer considerably more space for shelves stocked with items like canned goods, cereal and detergent; freezers filled with meat, pizzas and other goodies; racks of donated clothing and more.
The availability of other amenities at the “new” building – such as more parking and an indoor waiting area – brings smiles to the faces of pantry volunteers.
Although volunteers do their best to make clients feel welcome, the waiting area at the Deer Street location simply can’t accommodate the number of people who come to the facility for help each week.
“People won’t have to wait outside in bad weather anymore,” said pantry volunteer Darlene Kuehl of the new location. “Sometimes, people are waiting outside at 8:30 in the morning,” added volunteer Judy Anderson.
And that’s a long wait, since distribution begins on Thursdays at 2 p.m. for seniors, those with disabilities and veterans; and 3 p.m. for members of the general public.
According to Spaeth, soon after she became director of the food pantry in 2008, the all-volunteer organization was serving about 800 families. The pantry is now serving the needs of more than 7,000 – as well as helping out organizations such as PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), Kendall Cares and Hesed House.
“It’s overwhelming sometimes,” Spaeth said. “But if there’s a place in the county that needs food, we give it to them. Together, we work to take care of the people in this community.”
Spaeth has nothing but praise for the more than 100 food pantry volunteers who pick up food and other items from a variety of sources, unload trucks, stock and organize shelves, assist clients on distribution days and more.
“This county is truly blessed by these volunteers – very selfless people who give up their time and energy. They are just amazing people,” Spaeth said.
“I, too, am blessed to be here,” she added.
According to its website, the not-for-profit Kendall County Food Pantry is charged with the charitable collection and distribution of food, clothing and related necessitates to those in need, in crisis and/or in emergency situations.
For every $1 in donations, the food pantry can buy $6 worth of food at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The organization accepts donations of goods daily (except Thursdays) from 8 a.m. to noon at its facility at 1204A Deer Street in Yorkville. Donations may be left any other time in the open front foyer. Donation slips are also available there.
The facility also accepts new and gently used clothing, bedding, shoes, coats, towels and small household appliances in working condition. (The pantry does not take electronics such as old computers, old console TVs and stereo systems. If donating furniture or large appliances, arrangements can be made for client pick up, as the facility does not accept drop offs for these items.)
For more information or to volunteer, visit the website at http://kendallcountyfoodpantry.org or call 630-553-0473.