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updated: 8/26/2014 6:39 PM

Twice as many need food from Elgin pantry

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  • Video: Helping the Hungry

  • All People's Interfaith Food Pantry volunteer Lili Balasa of Elgin, left, hands fresh produce to Shelley Hernandez of Elgin. Balasa has been a volunteer there for two years.

       All People's Interfaith Food Pantry volunteer Lili Balasa of Elgin, left, hands fresh produce to Shelley Hernandez of Elgin. Balasa has been a volunteer there for two years.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Charles Awe of Elgin brings out bags of groceries he and fellow Golden K Kiwanis member Al Mink packed up Monday for a family at All People's Interfaith Food Pantry in Elgin.

       Volunteer Charles Awe of Elgin brings out bags of groceries he and fellow Golden K Kiwanis member Al Mink packed up Monday for a family at All People's Interfaith Food Pantry in Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • All People's Interfaith Food Pantry has doubled the number of clients since last summer. The pantry operates out of the basement of the First Congregational Church in downtown Elgin.

       All People's Interfaith Food Pantry has doubled the number of clients since last summer. The pantry operates out of the basement of the First Congregational Church in downtown Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Al Mink has been volunteering at All People's Interfaith Food Pantry in downtown Elgin for 13 years.

       Al Mink has been volunteering at All People's Interfaith Food Pantry in downtown Elgin for 13 years.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Joan Wesner gets mad at newscasts that tout the country's economic recovery.

As manager for All People's Interfaith Food Pantry in downtown Elgin, she sees something entirely different.

"I want them to come to the pantry and see," she said. "It is unbelievable what people go through to try to make ends meet."

In response to a steady increase in demand, earlier this year the pantry -- which fed more than 13,000 people last year -- began allowing families to stock up on food once a month, rather than six times a year, Wesner said.

The busiest days are Mondays and Thursdays, when the Jewel-Osco grocery store in South Elgin donates dozens of boxes filled with fruit and vegetables. Pantry clients can choose the produce they want.

"It's worked wonderfully," she said. "They really need their fruits and vegetables."

Additionally, clients get an assortment of canned goods and household items, depending on their family size.

The produce is available to anyone who walks in, but people need to bring in a referral -- from a doctor, pastor or social service agency -- for the additional items, she said.

This summer, the pantry has served twice the number of people it served last summer, Wesner said. Many are from families in which multiple generations moved in together to save money.

"We started carrying laundry soap recently, because we found out a lot of people were using dish soap for laundry," she said.

Client Sherry Huske of Elgin said the pantry, which she's been frequenting for about six months, is a tremendous help.

"I have three grandkids and I am trying to support them, but it's hard on a nurse's aide's salary," Huske said. "I am glad the pantry is here."

Wesner, whose husband Donald is a volunteer, is the pantry's only staff member. Volunteers include members of The Elgin Golden K Kiwanis Club and members of local churches.

Bill Kennedy of Elgin said volunteering is rewarding. "I've been given a so much in my life, and it's a way to give back," he said.

Donations come from churches and people's own private gardens, Wesner said, The pantry, which takes monetary donations, spends about $5,000 every six weeks to buy goods, she said.

All People's Interfaith Food Pantry is open 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday in the lower level of First Congregational Church, 254 E. Chicago St. in Elgin.

Donations can be dropped off on site. Checks can be mailed to PO Box 99, Elgin IL 60120. For information call (847) 741-2329.

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