Food passed hand-to-hand to pantry

December 7, 2009 (DES PLAINES, Ill.) They are lending a hand to make sure some needy families have enough to eat.

Students from Maine West High School left the classroom and headed out in the cold and formed a human chain with the food they had collected. They have been gathering items for about two weeks now. On Monday, after the food had been bagged by the student council, hundreds of members of the student body passed that food person to person for a couple of miles to the Self-Help Closet and Pantry, an independent organization helping needy people.

The chain is the culmination of a community effort led by the students.

"And they're actually really excited about it. I know some will complain at first about the cold, but then they realized what they were doing. And they got so excited by it," said Ashley Winecki, senior, Maine West H.S.

"We went to Algonquin Middle School - and it's right down the block and it's always been there - and to see people line up, it just breaks our hearts. And we wanted to do something big to get the whole school involved. We do a food pantry each year, but we wanted to show them that our school really cares. And we don't want people lining up and getting rejected. We want everyone to have a wonderful Christmas," said Germaine Geuder, senior, Maine West H.S.

"I'm close with the people who struggle. Times are tough right now. Everyone needs help here and there," said Craig Radke, senior, Maine West H.S.

"I feel great. We had over 500 kids out here starting from Maine West all the way down to the food pantry, and we raised so many cans and so much food for the homeless in des Plaines that we are excited we could help," said Audrey Haugan, principal, Maine West H.S.

"My own son is a freshman in high school, and I know how busy they are. And for them to make extra time with their studies and their sports and their extracurricular activities, to do something like this is just amazing," said Debra Walusiak, Self-help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines.

Despite the kids' effort, there is still a real need there. Staffers at the Self-Help Closet and Pantry said they could still use some things, especially winter coats, winter clothes, nonperishable items and canned goods. And because they are an independent organization they can always use cash.

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