Indy 500 champion, bourbon add hype to Glen Ellyn Food Pantry fundraiser
It's hard to find inspiration in the monotony of self-isolation.
But beauty is inspiring, and a highly sought-after bottle of Blanton's bourbon is beautiful. The signature racehorse and jockey topper has a different letter embossed on each one, ultimately spelling out "BLANTONS" if you collect all eight variations. A complete set of just the toppers, a bestseller on Etsy, goes for $45.
The bottles gave Jim Burket a light-bulb moment on a Monday stuck inside his Glen Ellyn home.
"I'm looking for different ways of helping people while I'm sitting around the house like everyone else, trying to find things to do," Burket said.
He decided to offer his bottles as the prize in a drawing to raise funds for the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry. For a $10 donation, anyone 21 and older can enter for the chance to win the Blanton's and a bottle of Woodford Reserve Distillery bourbon.
"Liquor stores will tell you time and time again that they'll order six bottles a week and if they get six bottles every two months, they're happy," Burket said of Blanton's.
Still, he underestimated the impact of his idea.
"I think I even said, 'If I don't raise $300, I'll keep the bottle and just give you back your money, and put the donation through,'" he said.
He won't have to do that now that an anonymous donor is matching every $10 donation. Burket also enlisted a local luminary best known for drinking milk, not bourbon: Indy 500 champion and "Glen Ellyn Hometown Hero" Bobby Rahal.
"He's a friend of the family, so it was nothing more than an email, and he said sure," Burket said.
Rahal will pluck the name of the winner from the felt Blanton's bag on April 20. To play, make a donation on the pantry's website and forward the receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burket has gathered 117 tickets for the drawing and raised $2,400 -- a much-needed donation for a pantry trying to meet rising demand.
In a normal month, the pantry in Grace Lutheran Church distributes over 6,000 bags of groceries -- or 80,000 pounds. In March, it served 691 clients, up from 638 the month prior, interim Executive Director Suzanne Skala said.
She's expecting the tally to climb. Former clients are coming back and some volunteers have become clients.
"They run paycheck to paycheck ... and now they're falling behind again," Skala said.
Burket and others have provided donations and volunteer help. He's one of the organizers of the Tour of Lake Ellyn in July, a cycling race that gives proceeds to the pantry.
The pantry is running low on peanut butter, jelly and oatmeal. It also needs toothpaste, dish soap, body wash and shampoo. Donations can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.
Glen Ellyn police started a "DROP and GO! Food Drive" in the station's parking lot near Panfish Park. Last week, the park district and Kiwanis Club held a collection that brought in 750 bags of groceries, Skala said.
"I'm profoundly overwhelmed by the amount of generosity and the spirit that's here, people trying to help so much," she said.