Caring in Action: Naperville's Loaves & Fishes fundraises to open new Aurora hub

Loaves & Fishes Community Services announced in January that it was acquiring a 30,100-square-foot warehouse building in Aurora.

Plans were to open the building at 580 Exchange Court this summer, but the entire $3.3 million needed to complete the purchase and do interior renovations has not yet been met.

That's why the Naperville-based nonprofit has launched a few fundraisers as part of its overall capital campaign titled "Building for Lasting Impact." As an organization that has provided food assistance and programs teaching self-sufficiency for nearly 40 years, Loaves and Fishes wanted to salute donors with a physical presence to decorate the Aurora building.

Loaves & Fishes Community Services is still raising funds to complete the interior of its recently acquired Aurora "hub" building that will store food products for later distribution. Courtesy of Loaves & Fishes

The latest fundraising salvo is the "Faces of Compassion" campaign, which Loaves & Fishes launched in July. For a contribution starting at $250, donors can submit a photo of themselves that will become part of a colorful, apple-shaped wall collage.

"It's going to be a cool piece of artwork of people who are supporting our organization and our mission," said Loaves & Fishes CEO and President Mike Havala about the approximately 5-by-5-foot digital art creation.

The "Faces of Compassion" follows Loaves & Fishes' successful "Building Blocks for Lasting Impact" fundraiser. With a donation ranging between $500 and $25,000, the names of individual and group donors are to be emblazoned on decorative acrylic bricks within a "Hall of Mission, Vision and Values" inside the Aurora building's main entrance.

Nancy Wiersum, Loaves & Fishes executive vice president of advancement, said she was proud to announce that all 155 available bricks had "sold out." She said she hopes the next fundraiser will be similarly successful.

"'The Faces of Compassion' wall in the new building reflects the compassion and generosity of our community," Wiersum said in a statement. "Every day, it will serve as a reminder of the many people who are making a difference."

Drive-in docks and storage areas are among the features planned for a new Aurora hub of the Naperville-based Loaves & Fishes nonprofit. Courtesy of Loaves & Fishes

Loaves & Fishes' has already dubbed the Aurora building the center of its new and expanded "Hub & Spoke Model" of operations. The Aurora location is the "hub" where food will be received, stored and sorted before being distributed out to the "spokes" of Loaves & Fishes' existing Naperville location and its satellite partnership with Compass Church Food Pantry in Bolingbrook.

Currently, Loaves & Fishes serves nearly 1,000 families a week with grocery assistance and self-sufficiency programs involving topics like financial literacy and health benefits. Havala estimates that the new Aurora hub triples the reach of Loaves & Fishes.

"We serve all of DuPage County and part of Will," Havala said. "When we open up the new facility, we'll formally open our doors to a four-county area - DuPage, Will, Kane and Kendall counties."

Havala said there is a lot of food insecurity, with an estimated 1 in 5 people in those four counties living in poverty or low-income situations. The new Aurora location will allow for healthier food options.

"Probably the biggest thing we're doing is we're installing some very large freezer-cooler units," Havala said. "They're really rooms of several thousand square feet total where we can store perishable products."

Though Havala declined to say how far along Loaves & Fishes was in its capital campaign, he said they hope to open the Aurora building sometime this fall.

"We're pleased so far with support from the community," Havala said. "But we still need additional capital to pay for the building."

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