The grocery stores will be packed this week with people pushing baskets overflowing with all the fixins for Thanksgiving dinner. It’ll be hectic, it’ll be crazy and the cash registers will be working overtime. But there’s a growing group of Barrington families who won’t be making that big trip to the grocery store because times are really tight this year. “Every dime is going to put a roof over their head, gas in their car and heat in their home.” Kate Formichella of the Cuba Township Food Pantry says, “For some people it’s a huge shock to realize that they have to ask for food. But I can say there is not one single neighborhood that has not been affected in Cuba Township.”
Cheryl Tanaka and Kate Formichella are Cuba Township’s community liaisons and they’ve been very busy filling 70 boxes of stuffing, gravy, green beans, potatoes, turkey coupons, bread…all the basics needed to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. 70 families this year, in Cuba Township alone, have asked the pantry for food to make their holiday meal on Thursday. Kate says, “When I started here there were only 25 families who asked for help and that was five years ago.” That’s an increase of almost 300-percent!
“There’s a certain uneasiness about it, too.” Kate says, “People don’t have any more nets to fall into. They’re running out of unemployment benefits and are borrowing from their friends and family. They’re going through foreclosure, their 401K, pension and savings are gone. This year, there is a bit more panic.”
And, as a result, the food pantry is quickly running out of supplies. We haven’t hit Thanksgiving yet, and they already have empty shelves. They have enough canned soup and beans to last until 2012, but they’re running low on things like toilet paper, cereal, jam, coffee, tea and they’re down to their last jar of spaghetti sauce. They say they’re also really short on personal care items like laundry detergent, diapers, paper towels, feminine care and cleaning supplies.
“What we’re seeing now is a lot of families who are seniors who still own a home. Their kids are losing their homes so their kids and their grandkids are moving in. We have families of eight and ten that are all living together because of all that’s going on.” Cheryl says, “We can’t reconnect their telephone. We can’t pay their gas bills. We can’t pay their mortgage. But we can always help keep food in their pantry and on the table.”
It really hit me when Kate said this about all of the new people who’ve asked for help this year: “Sometimes this has been going on a while. They haven’t told their family, their friends or their neighbors. They hide and, when they come to us, it’s the first time they’re telling their story. So we try to soften the blow as much as possible.”
Here’s how we all can help. Cheryl and Kate say, next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up extra items to help restock those food pantry shelves. Next time you’re at the gas station, buy a gas card that you can donate to help a family afford to drive to visit relatives for the holidays. And, most importantly, find a food collection box at a school, church or shop nearby. Or drop the items off directly at the nearest township office. Click HERE for more examples of what the food pantries need this year. Here’s where you’ll find those Township offices and their phone numbers, for people who may also need help:
- Cuba Township
28000 W. Cuba Road– Barrington, ILPhone: 847-381-1924
Hours: Monday through Friday – 9 to 4PM (Closed 11/25 & 11/26)
- Barrington Township
602 South Hough Street– Barrington, ILPhone: 847-381-5632
Hours: Monday through Friday – 8 to 4PM
- Ela Township
1155 E. Route 22– Lake Zurich, ILPhone: 847-540-8380
Hours:Monday through Friday – 9 to 5PM
Kate and Cheryl also say thank you so much to the many people who have already made donations. They say the Barrington Area Soccer Association hosted a very successful “Pack the Pantries” food drive at area Jewel stores yesterday and the kids helped prepare food boxes for families who will need them this Christmas. And Advocated Good Shepherd Hospital just donated 5,200 pounds of turkey and ham to eight area food pantry’s and shelters. That’s up considerably from their 3,000 pound Thanksgiving contribution last year.