The Society of St. Vincent DePaul (www.svdpchicago.org)has about 2,000 volunteers who work at 120 sites across Cook and Lake counties.
Jack Bryers and Bill Neufeldt have been a team for the past eight years. They met at their church, St. Zachary in Des Plaines. While both enjoy being retired, Neufeldt doesn't hesitate when asked what brought him back to work.
"Jack," Neufeldt said, laughing. "He said, 'Do you want to be a driver?'And I said, 'Sure.' And once I got involved in it and saw how many starving people are out there I said, 'Man, I'll continue.'"
Bryers has been at it for 16 years.
"We have a different schedule every day. We go to different retailers and each day we have a different driver," Bryers said. "We pick up the food, the day old or previous day bakery goods, mostly bakery goods and after we make our run, five or six accounts we bring it to a homeless site."
On the day the ABC 7 News crew went along, the goods they picked up from locations on the far Northwest Side and Park Ridge and being delivered to the Pilsen Wellness Center ( pilsenwellnesscenter.org/pilsen_food_pantry.html ), where Maria Espejel works, for the weekly food pantry program.
"We are so grateful that we are receiving donations from them," Espejel said. "There is a lot of need and we see that the need increases everyday because when we begin with the food pantry, we used to serve between 45 and 50 families. Right now, we serve almost 200."
The food pantry operates on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. People typically start lining up as early as 6:30 a.m. Both Neufeldt and Bryers say seeing the need keeps them coming back.
"A lot of people are homeless. A lot of people are hungry," Bryers said.
"I was not brought up that way. I always had food on the table. My parents both worked and just a different kind of living. I couldn't imagine how bad it was until you see it and I felt very sorry for them. So what little I can do to help, here I am," Neufeldt said.
In addition to supporting food programs, St. Vincent's also offers rent and utility assistance, job training and free pharmacy services.