'Day Without Hunger' to shine light on local food insecurity
Diane Ramonas knows many stories of people helped by Naperville-based Loaves and Fishes Community Services.
Just recently, she met a woman whose husband lost his job. With only the wife working part time, the couple was finding it hard to make ends meet.
"Bills don't go away because your income has gone away," said Ramonas, the nonprofit group's community relations manager.
The volunteers and staff at Loaves and Fishes let the couple know they were not alone. They offered their support. The wife took some of the organization's computer classes. When the six-week program was over, she was given a refurbished computer, and eventually, she found a better job. Four or five months later, her husband found employment as well.
"She stopped in and said, 'This will be the last time I'll be coming here because my husband found a job,'" Ramonas said. "A lot of it was because we helped them."
Helping families who suffer from issues related to food insecurity, or the state of not knowing where the next meal will come from, is what Loaves and Fishes is all about. The group also longs to raise awareness of those problems, with its ninth annual "Day Without Hunger" celebration from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, June 10, at its Naperville facility, 1871 High Grove Lane.
In a relatively affluent county such as DuPage, people don't always realize how many come to Loaves and Fishes for food or other services, Ramonas said. Those services also include computer classes, job search assistance, money management and English as a Second Language classes.
"Day Without Hunger" will include a book fair and various exhibits by the DuPage Children's Museum and the Naperville Area Humane Society. Local bands, free food and tours of the Loaves and Fishes facility will also be part of the event.
Ramonas said the facility is built to look like a grocery store so it can provide dignity for clients and allow families to pick the food they want to eat.
Michelle Iskowitz, who is coordinating the Day Without Hunger, started volunteering with Loaves and Fishes in 2010. Now, she is overseeing the event for a second year.
She said the "Day Without Hunger" committee features staff members and volunteers who have been working for more than six months on the festival.
"You might think it's a draining day, but while there is a lot of work around the hours of the event, everyone enjoys themselves, and the atmosphere is one of celebration and joy," Iskowitz said.
Although she says the weather didn't cooperate last year, the event was still successful, and it's her goal to replicate that success this year.
"The committees, volunteers and even the eventgoers did bring their own brand of sunshine, and it ended up being very enjoyable despite the weather," Iskowitz said.
This year, the festival will celebrate the community's children and their accomplishments.
"We want to celebrate the future of our children," Iskowitz said. "We are really hoping to raise awareness of food insecurity and other kinds of insecurity in our area and continue to progress and make great strides in that."
Many of the event's volunteers have returned year after year, including Tom Belgio of Belgio's Catering in Naperville, who will be providing sides and salads throughout the day of the event.
"Just like any other community event, it takes a village," Belgio said.
Belgio's has been involved in the "Day Without Hunger" for years, starting when Loaves and Fishes was located right behind his company's catering office.
"They can kind of give back to everybody, so we feel like we can give a little more to them as well," Belgio said. "It's kind of a win-win: We see the good they're doing, and we feel like it's kind of what we're doing as well."
For information about Loaves and Fishes and the Day Without Hunger, visit loaves-fishes.org/.
Day Without HungerWhen: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, June 10
Where: Loaves and Fishes Community Services, 1871 High Grove Lane, Naperville