Floyd and Karole Kettering had an idea.
This was back in 1979 when the Wheaton couple decided to collect gifts and groceries in a spare bedroom and then share them with needy area families for the holidays.
"In the Christmas spirit, I wanted to give to more than just my two kids," Karole Kettering says now. "I never thought it would get this big."
The organization that eventually grew out of that early effort, the Humanitarian Service Project, became an official charity in 1982. It has continued to grow over the past three decades to the point where it will distribute roughly 75,000 pounds of food this summer to DuPage County families in need.
The Christmas offering program continues, but has been expanded to include a Senior Citizens Project, a Children's Birthday Project and a Feed the Kids program.
Feed the Kids began in the summer of 2004 after Karole read an article in Parade magazine about the increased hunger children often experience in summer. Many financially strapped families can benefit from federally subsidized school meal programs during the rest of the year, but in summer those offerings go away, leaving some children to go hungry.
Every summer, the DuPage group puts together 250-pound packages of food for participating families for each of June, July and August.
Each package includes four 25-pound boxes of nonperishable food, as well as a variety of fresh produce, fresh bread, frozen meats and nutritious snacks.
Packages for June recently were distributed from the group's Carol Stream warehouse.
Money to purchase the food is raised through grants and individual sponsorships. The cost of a sponsorship is $75 a month or $225 for the whole summer.
Organizers say they don't have enough money to provide food for all the DuPage families that need help. Every year a random lottery is held for the families that are in the Children's Birthday Project to determine who will receive the additional help from Feed the Kids.
Residents also can help support Feed the Kids by donating nonperishable food items for the second and third distributions of the summer.
There is currently enough money to cover 100 families, but staff and volunteers are hoping for more grant money to come through for the distributions in July and August, said Paul Yambrovich, who has been a volunteer with the Humanitarian Service Project for 24 years.
There are five full-time staff members who work for the organization; the rest of the organizing, packing and distributing is done by volunteers.
"I had no idea how many people in this area are in need," Yambrovich said. "Being part of the Humanitarian Service Project has exposed me to a slice of life that's not really apparent."
Yambrovich said seeing the reactions of the people who benefit from the programs and how much they need and appreciate the help is the reason he continues to help.
"One great thing that happens makes all the prepping and the organizing worthwhile," he said.
More information on the Humanitarian Service Project programs and ways to get involved can be found at humanitarianserivce.org. For details or to make donations, call Yambrovich at (630) 221-8340.