Hoffman Estates veteran calls his work at food pantry simple but necessary
Since his retirement from the printing industry three years ago, Vietnam-era Army Veteran Dan Callender of Hoffman Estates has been serving those most in need in his community by regularly volunteering at the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry.
But even while his career was in full swing, Callender made the time to serve as chairman of the Hoffman Estates Fourth of July Festival for 24 years, when it was still held on the grounds of village hall.
The suggestion to do so back in 1988 came from then-Village Trustee Sue Kenley-Rupnow. He took to it immediately and was always encouraged by its visible impact on the community.
"It was a great group of people that I worked with," Callender said. "I thought, 'Holy moly, did we put this together?' You would stand there and look out at the sea of people and think, 'This is what community is all about. This is the bottom line.' I thought we did a pretty good job at it, and they're still doing a pretty job at it."
The event's expansion into the Northwest Fourth-Fest outside the Sears Centre Arena in 2012 occurred just when Callender decided the time had come for him to hand off the baton. But he assisted with the transition for the first two years and believes his experience helped in deciding how to organize the festival grounds.
Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said the village was fortunate to have Callender and many like him who stayed with the Fourth of July Festival for a long time.
Callender's volunteerism today is centered on a more specific part of the community, but one he feels is equally deserving of his attention.
For three hours every Tuesday morning, he sorts new donations to the Schaumburg Township District Food Pantry and ensures that nothing expired makes it way into distribution.
"For the volunteers it's very simple work, but it's also very necessary work," Callender said. "I'm just glad we're able to help."
Approximately 650 to 700 households per month -- roughly 2,000 individuals -- are assisted by the food pantry every month.
Callender said he doesn't have significant interaction with those coming for help. That part of the job falls to the township's trained and licensed staff.
"I'm just an old printer with a strong back," he laughs.
But the township staff is not as quick to dismiss the role of volunteers like Callender.
"I always like to say volunteers are the heart of our team," said Amy Fillmore, supervisor of program support services at Schaumburg Township. "Without them, we wouldn't be able to do what we do."
She also is mindful that a couple of her volunteers are veterans.
"I have a special place in my heart for veterans," Fillmore said. "My dad is a World War II veteran, 91 years old."
Callender was living in his native Chicago and engaged when his draft number came up in 1970. He did his training at Fort Bragg and was then sent to Oakland in the expectation of going on to Vietnam from there.
But the war was winding down by then, and not as many were needed in Vietnam as originally thought. Callender instead received an assignment to West Germany, where he helped guard the border with Czechoslovakia from May 1971 to January 1972.
Callender and his wife still live in the same Hoffman Estates home that they moved to in 1977. They had two sons and now have three young grandchildren in the area.
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