Open just about nine months, the Wheeling Food Pantry has handed out more than 16,000 pounds of food to people in need -- and the need, officials said, the need is rising.
Since opening in September 2011 at 101 N. Wolf Road, the pantry was serving about 100 people a month, but that number has recently gone up to 140 or 150, said Jim Bradley, community service coordinator for the pantry which is run through the local Rotary Club.
"This is something that, unfortunately, is a growing need in our area," said U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, a Republican from Kenilworth, as he visited the pantry Monday afternoon.
Dold didn't show up empty-handed -- he brought boxes full of food and toiletries to donate.
Bradley said the increasing need is not just for food, but also for the services the pantry provides.
The pantry is staffed with social workers from the village of Wheeling and OMNI Youth Services, who talk to clients about what led them to that point, and identify other services they may need.
Families can come into the pantry once every 30 days and get a bag full of nonperishable food to last them four or five days.
Bradley said they also hand out toys and dolls to children who come into the pantry with their families.
"For some of them it's the first doll they've ever had so the look on their face is just great," he said.
Just last week the pantry was accepted as an official agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, meaning the Wheeling pantry will be able to buy food from the large Chicago depository for a much cheaper rate then going to local grocery store, Bradley said.
"We're in pretty good shape," said Bradley, who with his wife, Barbara, has overseen the project since the beginning.
"This is great, this is something that concerned citizens put together to fill a need that's out there," Dold said.
The pantry is a project of the Rotary Club along with several partners: OMNI Youth Services; St. Joseph the Worker Church; Wheeling High School and Wheeling Township Elementary District 21.
Donations can be brought directly to the Wheeling Food Pantry, which is open 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.