Tinley Park nonprofit weeks away from reopening after fire

ByRob Hughes WLS logo
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Tinley Park nonprofit weeks away from reopening after fire
Nonprofit Together We Cope is weeks away from reopening after a Tinley Park fire last year. The food pantry was decimated in the incident.

TINLEY PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- In south suburban Tinley Park, a beloved nonprofit is weeks away from reopening after a devastating fire in November of last year.

Together We Cope has helped people avoid or escape homelessness for more than 40 years.

And they're already giving back before their new building is even finished.

There are presents under the tree for 500 little boys and girls this year.

"That was what was running through my head the day of the fire: 'how are we going to continue what we're doing?'" said Kathryn Straniero, executive director of Together We Cope.

A little more than a year ago, Together We Cope's world was flipped upside down.

"There was so much water, and so much smoke," Straniero said.

Straniero remembers the moment she arrived that morning.

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"It felt like somebody was cutting part of me off, and I know I wasn't the only one," Straniero said.

Together We Cope serves 27 south suburban communities. Families rely on them for everything from clothes and furniture to mortgage, rent and utility assistance. But their biggest program is their food pantry.

"Forty to 60 households come through here a day," said Tony Roman, food pantry manager for Together We Cope.

The idea of the new food pantry is a market-like concept, where people will be able to come in and actually shop for their specific needs.

With Together We Cope's food supply wiped out by the fire, Greater Chicago Food Depository has stepped in, promising to fully restock them when they're ready to reopen.

"We grieved with them because we understand the importance. In Chicago right now one in five households is dealing with food insecurity. When you talk about households with children, it's one in four, and that's true in this community, as well," said Camerin Mattson, communications manager with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

And in the midst of the season of giving, Together We Cope is counting down the days.

"That's why we're here. That's why every single one of us is here. We're here to help people, and if we're not, I don't know who is going to," Straniero said.