In its 37–year history of providing emergency food assistance in our community, the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry has seen local families through hard times including an extended teachers’ strike and a few serious recessions. But since the pandemic began, the number of neighbors being served by the pantry has increased 300 per cent.
The Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry’s annual holiday turkey fundraising campaign is underway. The Thanksgiving food distribution is Sat., Nov. 21, 9 a.m. to noon, and the number of families to be served is expected to be up significantly this year. According to Pantry Executive Director Karen Overstreet, our pantry is the only one that gives not just a turkey but all the trimmings for holiday dinners.
Each donation of $20 can supply a turkey and the trimmings a family meal. Send checks to the Maple/Morgan Park Food Pantry, 11030 S. Longwood Dr., Chicago, IL 60643. As much as the pantry appreciates and needs donation of non-perishable food items, money is still the best donation; food can be purchased at exceptional savings through the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Overstreet said that 70 per cent of pantry contributions come from private donors. About 15 percent comes from corporations and foundations, and the rest from local organizations and churches as well as in-kind donations that include food.
Online Donations Coming Soon
Currently, the pantry cannot accept monetary donations online, but a committee of volunteers is working to develop a new website for the organization that provides a secure option to contribute. The committee came together following a phone call from Beverly/Morgan Park resident Monica Carey to BAPA Executive Director Mary Jo Viero. “I really wanted to donate [to the pantry] online,” Carey said, adding that the capacity to accept donations online is essential with so many people now handling all of their financial transactions digitally.
Viero began making calls, Viero, Carey and Overstreet met with Sheila King, owner of Sheila King Public Relations, and Melody Camp of Melody Camp Consulting and Facilitation and others to begin working on a website for the pantry. The site will provide important information about the pantry including updates and events. It is hoped that the website will be launched and set up to accept donations later this month.
And that’s not a moment too soon.
Meeting Pandemic Challenges
But the current pandemic has dedicated volunteers facing all new challenges in responding to the needs of people affected by COVID-19 and its repercussions. Food drives and food distributions must follow strict safety guidelines and are handled contact-free in the parking lot. The amount and kinds of items needed has expanded; in addition to food, pantry patrons can now receive hygiene and first aid products and even pet food.
“It has been an unbelievable year,” said Overstreet, explaining that due to the coronavirus she has had to reduce the volunteer staff – most of whom were older people, many who have been volunteering for decades. Younger people have been stepping up to help and the community has been wonderfully responsive to the pantry’s additional needs.
For more information, call 773-239-3013. The Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.