WOODRIDGE, IL – From semi-trailers full of food sent by partner companies to grocery bags full of canned goods donated by individual residents, West Suburban Community Pantry has collected over 50,000 pounds of food in just one week to help victims of tornadoes in and around Woodridge.
“Flooded” with donations
The pantry has been “completely inundated” with contributions since they appealed for donations to help victims of the deadly EF-3 tornado which devastated parts of Woodridge, Naperville and Darien on June 20, said spokesperson Deb Newman at Patch. Newman said residents also donated diapers, cleaning supplies, bottled water and other items.
âWe literally had Walmart and Lowe’s semi-trailers with trucks full of food,â a day after asking for help, Newman said.
The pantry staff and volunteers worked hard to cope with the influx of donations, which they had to organize and inventory before distributing them.
The influx of support was crucial in the aftermath of the tornado, Newman said. “The first week, people were anxious to get the help they could.”
She said at least 20 families who visited the pantry self-identified as victims of the tornado, although there may be more who chose not to identify themselves. Some people have come because “they won’t have a kitchen for a while” after their homes were destroyed, Newman said. Others had been without power for days, causing food in their refrigerators and freezers to spoil.
Newman said the West Suburban Community Pantry distributed around 2,000 pounds of food to these tornado victims within days. They also partnered with the village of Woodridge and donated approximately 2,000 pounds of non-perishable food, water and cleaning supplies.
Respond to increased demands
The tornado crisis increased demands on the West Suburban Community Pantry just a month after their 6809 Hobson Valley Drive facility reopened to the public. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people needing pantry services has increased to almost double normal demand, Newman said.
âWe typically see 500 families a month,â Newman said, âSince the pandemic it’s been considerably more than that.â
Related: Naperville Amazon Fresh Store Delivers To Help Local Pantry
Upon reopening, the pantry expanded and partnered with Amazon Fresh in Naperville to provide “more vegetarian and ethnic food options” to families in need, Newman said. Customers also now have access to a virtual pantry launched in March 2021 and available 24 hours a day.
Newman said, “A lot of these families will continue to struggle for many moons to come, and we just want to be there for them.”
Since June 20, staff, volunteers and other West Suburban Community Pantry team members have had phone calls and meetings with other agencies providing assistance to tornado victims. Newman said they were working tirelessly on ways to offer assistance “beyond the needs of the crisis.”
“We are ready and willing to work with a number of different agencies to meet the long term needs of families,” she said.
The pantry extended its hours of operation immediately after the tornado, but resumed its regular hours of operation for customers.
The times are as follows:
Monday: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (milk, eggs and fruits and vegetables only)
Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Ways to help
As of June 24, the pantry was adequately stocked with “emergency supplies,” according to a post on social media.
Those who still want to help can donate gift cards to big box retailers and gas stations as affected residents may need clothing, fuel, shoes, or household items. The Pantry cannot accept direct donations of household items, toys, or clothing.
Click on the links to see a list of the pantry’s most needed food items or to donate money.
Newman said the western suburban community pantry was “grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
They are also grateful to the residents who did their part to donate and show their support for the victims of the tornado.
âWhen people are in crisis, one of the healthiest things people can do is find ways to help,â Newman said.
“It heals the whole community.”
Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help educate the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that by 2021, about 42 million Americans may not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch Social Good Project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a pantry near you.