Naperville pantry's new location increases food, counseling
Food, social services and dignity combined Saturday as Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry opened its new distribution center and warehouse in Naperville.
The new location will allow the organization to provide more fresh produce and counseling on topics such as personal finances and mental health -- all in an environment that promotes respect for clients, said Brian Bollinger, director of the Loaves and Fishes board.
"We're trying to do more with fresh produce than just giving people cans," Bollinger said.
Lorrie Logan, the second client to come through after Saturday morning's ribbon cutting, said she already feels a change in atmosphere from the pantry's old location on Fifth Avenue, behind Naperville North High School.
"With the new location and the cleanliness of it, you just really feel like you're getting the help you need without feeling like you're less than you are," said Logan, of Naperville. "It's a tough time for everyone right now."
Naperville Mayor George Pradel also recognized the pantry for respecting its clients and working to fill not only their stomachs, but their other needs. He led a prayer before the first clients began strolling down four grocery store-like aisles and selecting items.
"Bless this facility that it might help others and people that are in need who can come in with dignity to shop and fill their needs," Pradel said. "It is so wonderful that one location can serve all with dignity."
The city provided two grants totaling $445,000 to help with land acquisition and the cost of constructing the more than 18,500-square-foot facility, Bollinger said. The entire project cost about $2.3 million.
The pantry will begin offering social services next week with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program run by the Internal Revenue Service. Charles McLimans, the pantry's executive director, said groups including Samaritan Interfaith Counseling and Literacy DuPage also will use the building's two multipurpose rooms to provide counseling and education.
"We hope to continue to forge more of these partnerships to continue to empower people," McLimans said. "We hope that this is a community center that offers hope to many people in the future."