Feed the Love: Volunteers driving force behind Northern Illinois Food Bank's North Suburban Center

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Volunteers keep Northern Illinois Food Bank going in Lake Forest
Volunteers of the newly-relocate Northern Illinois Food Bank's North Suburban Center in Lake Forest have even more space to help feed the Love.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (WLS) -- The Northern Illinois Food Bank recently moved its north suburban distribution center from its long-time Park City location to its new home in Lake Forest.

The new space is much bigger, giving volunteers more room to work and help their neighbors from going hungry.

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At 13,000 square feet, the Northern Illinois Food Bank's new north suburban distribution center is three times larger than before, serving 200 agencies in Lake and McHenry Counties.

"Any food pantry, feeding site, soup kitchen, in that general area can come here if their shelves are low or if they're in need of food," said Scott Keenan manager of the NIFB North Suburban Center

The center's ultimate goal is to make sure nutritious, quality food gets to people's homes.

"So whoever receives, receives it with respect and dignity of how it was given to us," said Keenan. "We're entrusted to make sure it gets distributed out to those agencies, to go to the public, so when it's on someone's table, it's the same, no different from what you get at the grocery store,"

And volunteers are the key.

"We rely on volunteers for everything," said Barb Connett, production associate at the center.

The center runs five volunteer shifts a week. Since moving to Lake Forest, they've doubled their volunteer-work force to 50 but heir goal is to grow to a team of 100.

"We always say that you build community while you feed your community and really that's the beauty of volunteering at the food bank," said Connett. "For two and half hours you can make a huge difference in your local community, where you live."

Most of the volunteers are regulars.

"I volunteer here every Saturday, it's just one of the causes that I'm very passionate about because I can't believe that anyone in the United States goes hungry," said Barbara Waltanski.

Others get the call through school or work like Howard Mullen, who is a ComEd employee.

"They gave me the opportunity through work, I figured it was a great cause to do something to help others," said Mullen

But in the end, it's all about community.

"It's not difficult, sometimes it's a good workout but it's very rewarding. It's being part of a big crew, we're all working together," said volunteer Connie Purcell. "We can get thousands of thousands pounds of food out the door."