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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Loaves & Fishes Update: 36 years of community service


Above / To try to keep clients, volunteers, and staff safe, last spring Loaves and Fishes Community Services shifted to a curbside model of food distribution. Volunteers now pack boxes of healthy food inside to distribute to clients waiting outside. (Photo courtesy Loaves & Fishes)

A year ago, Positively Naperville featured the 35-year history of Loaves & Fishes Community Services as we counted our blessings for Thanksgiving…

A Year Later…

By Nancy Wiersum

Last year at this time Loaves & Fishes was celebrating its 35th Anniversary and proud to grace the cover of Positively Naperville with a historical look back. We had a year of special observances from acknowledging our beginning at St. Raphael to our big anniversary gala to the honor of serving as the Grand Marshal of the Jaycees Last Fling Parade. We were so excited about all the future would bring as we continued to serve our neighbors in need.

But what a difference a year makes!

When a nasty pandemic knocked on our doors, like so many others, we had to make rapid and dramatic changes. As jobs quickly disappeared, there was an immediate rise in the number of people needing help. To try to keep clients, volunteers, and staff safe, we shifted to a curbside model of food distribution.

In the past, clients shopped inside our facility in a market. When it became necessary to limit the number of people in the building, we began serving people at the curb where they could open their trunks and volunteers would put boxes of healthy food into them. Each client received about 100 pounds of healthy food that included fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meat, and other staples.

Prior to the pandemic, we were serving about 750 families a week; now we are serving 900-1,000 families a week. At our satellite facility in Bolingbrook, the number of families seeking help tripled. At the same time, CDC guidelines meant that we had to significantly reduce the number of volunteers in the building reducing our volunteers by 80 percent. Further, as about 60 percent of our food had come from our grocery partners through food rescue and their food supply was interrupted, we had to purchase more food.

We also saw a marked increase in the number of people needing help for rent or utilities. We expect that this need will continue as our clients are most impacted by the economics of the pandemic. Happily, we have continued to move forward with our car donation program and several deserving clients have received donated cars during this time.

It has been a challenging time yet a heartwarming time to see how many people have stepped forward to help. And our clients are truly grateful.

Here is what two appreciative clients had to say:

“Thank you for helping my family in our time of need…my family will forever be thankful to you for helping us.” Ashley, Loaves & Fishes Client

“I hope you stay blessed and continue to provide this service to our community, especially during this time of the Coronavirus epidemic.” Steff, Loaves & Fishes Client

Loaves & Fishes has been able to serve struggling families for more than 36 years because of the support of our generous community. We are honored to partner with such compassionate hearts now and well into the future, a future made brighter by people like you.

Nancy Wiersum is Executive Vice President Advancement for Loaves & Fishes Community Services. Contact her at nwiersum@loaves-fishes.org. If you would like to learn more about Loaves & Fishes, please visit our website at www.loaves-fishes.org. Here is the link for ways to give and to participate in the virtual food drive.

Photos courtesy Joni Wiltz, Director of Marketing & Communications for Loaves & Fishes Community Services.

Click to Loaves & Fishes Community Services: 35 Years of Compassion and Hope

Nancy Wiersum
Nancy Wiersumhttp://www.loaves-fishes.org/
Nancy Wiersum is Vice President of Advancement at Loaves & Fishes Community Services and can be contacted at nwiersum@loaves-fishes.org. Visit www.loaves-fishes.org for more information.