Tim Brennan, 59, has been donating food and cash to the West Suburban Community Pantry in Woodridge for more than 10 years because, he said, "It's a way to give back to the community," and "there are a lot of people who still need help right now."
He and dozens of other people attended a recent open house event at the food pantry, which is located inside an industrial park near the 6800 block of Hobson Valley Road. The event allows the pantry to convey its purpose, said Michael McDonnell, CEO and executive director.
"It helps expose what the pantry does for the people in the community," McDonnell said. "It also gives people an up-close opportunity to see what we have here."
The pantry has been serving families in DuPage County since 1992, and the number of clients has been steadily increasing over the years. In fact, the pantry will be providing more than 925 eligible families with Thanksgiving dinners this year compared to about 507 families last year. The pantry served about 3,700 people per month in 2012.
The pantry accepts both food and monetary donations. One dollar donated to the organization can actually buy $6 worth of food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank, officials said.
McDonnell said the pantry will be starting a new computer instruction program, taught by an instructor at Westwood College, for clients in January. And the pantry will be starting a new food program for senior citizens next year.
"We will be identifying seniors who need help and will be taking a box of food to their homes (once a month)," McDonnell said. "We have seen an 18 percent increase (this year) in the number of senior citizens needing assistance, and that is only going to get worse now that the baby boomer generation is getting older."
Earlier this year, the pantry began a pilot program, which provides needy school children with $15 worth of food inside a backpack that can feed three people over the weekend. McDonnell said the program has recently doubled the amount of children they assist from 40 to 80 students. Most who receive the backpack also eat free lunches at school and often lack proper nutrition on the weekends.
The pantry was recently selected by the Oklahoma-based Feed the Children organization to receive 24 pallets of food, health and beauty products. Volunteers will be passing out the items on the morning of Dec. 8.
Volunteer Sharon Pfister, 65, has been involved with the pantry for years and often does food distribution work.
"Times are tough for people, but at least we are here to offer them some help," she said.
For more information about the West Suburban Community Pantry, go to wcpinc.org.