For many, the holidays are a joyous time filled with plenty of gifts, foods, parties and celebrations. It's also a time to remember those who are less fortunate.
For struggling families, the unemployed, and those who come visiting the COOL Food Pantries in Waukegan and Ingleside, the season can bring with it overwhelming feelings of stress, depression and a reminder of the ongoing struggles that are always present when times are tough and money is scarce.
Statistically, Illinois has a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. as a whole with an official state count of 366,647 unemployed persons in the state in October of this year alone. But there are others who are likely not counted in that total. Unemployment compensation benefits now last only 26 weeks for those losing their jobs in today's economy and when individuals are no longer collecting benefits they are often left uncounted in statistical counts. Those same unemployment benefits lasted at least 73 weeks just a short time ago, and benefit extensions which were once possible are now almost completely gone.
In Lake County where COOL Ministries struggles to provide food and shelter for those less fortunate, families line up daily to receive help with groceries. Last month, more than 6,577 people received help from the COOL Food Pantries in Lake County which was enough food to make more than 78,000 meals!
Meanwhile, 10 families who were recently homeless with their children are currently being sheltered in the agency's Transitional Housing Program with the program continuously filled to capacity. As a result, dozens of homeless families with children in Lake County are waiting and hoping for a place in the program. In Lake County, homeless shelters are filled, and the phones at COOL Ministries like other organizations ring constantly with calls from families, who like in the Christmas Story literally can find "no room in the inn."
Charitable organizations like COOL Ministries work hard to get groceries and services to people in need. If you would like to help COOL to feed the hungry and house the homeless this year, your help is greatly needed. Donations can be sent to COOL Ministries at 800 W. Glen Flora Ave., Waukegan, IL 60085. Credit card donations are accepted via PayPal by visiting www.coolministries.org. Food donations can be dropped off at the food pantry during business hours Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by calling (847) 662-1230.
Your giving this season will be a true holiday blessing to those in need and to the organizations like COOL Ministries which work hard all year long to provide services for those who struggle to make ends meet.