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Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry

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Community Stories

57 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 1

I was offered an opportunity to participate in a once a month home delivery. This is not an "entitlement" program, one must qualify as I did.
After a few months I received a telephone call from my case manager that they had received a call questioning my eligibility as I walk my dog , drive a car and, why I am eligible with a "temporary" disability.
I contacted the food pantry speaking with various individuals and, getting various versions of who had made the call.
I know one person, a volunteer at this pantry with whom I had a falling out over a petty matter and, have not spoken to in over a year. I have had an encounter or two during this past year and, this person doesn't speak and, turns away as though they do not know me. This person knows I have a dog, a car and I fractured my femur. Any volunteer making a delivery would only know I have a dog.
I know this person is responsible and, it was a malicious personal attack. Why would I be singled out and, by people who do not know me?
I walk my dog not only as a necessity but, as part of therapy to rebuild my leg and hip muscles and, this walk consists of usually one block. My car which, I purchased new in 2003 basically sits parked only used if, I am in need of groceries or a prescription which, at the most is perhaps once a month. The mobility in my knee has been greatly reduced due to the trauma and, it is very difficult to drive. Also, a "temporary" disability must be based on their assumption that it was "just" a broken leg. I was transferred to a trauma center requiring internal fixation, blood transfusions, months in bed and then physical therapy. My disability is permanent not temporary. Also, I have had two surgeries this past year for breast cancer which, they would have no knowledge of.
My complaints regarding this matter have been met with denials of any malicious intent, excuses and, basically that staff and volunteers have been spoken to.
I feel this volunteer who crossed the line making calls that were not their responsibility and, none of their business should have been removed. What is this person saying about me and, perhaps others.
I have serious concerns about privacy with this organization. I believe as a volunteer or staff they will protect you but, as a client you are unimportant and, disposable.
I requested twice to speak with this organization's board and, that request was ignored, never addressed in any manner. I finally sent an email to the Board of Directors President asking the date, time and location of the next board meeting and that was ignored. I then sent an email to the Executive Director asking for the same information and received a terse response that the meetings were not open to the public and, they would have no further correspondence with me regarding this matter.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Everyone on staff is laser-focused on fulfilling the mission, and they do it in the most professional and compassionate way. Clients who visit the Pantry go away with almost 50 pounds of protein rich, nutrient dense food and their dignity intact. It is a pleasure to be associated with an organization so effectively engaged in helping our neighbors in need.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

I offered to join the board because of my interest in and work in food. I assumed a new 501(c)3 organization would need board members. I then started volunteering on distributions, food rescue and deliveries. Now, as vice president, I help recruit new members to the board. The pantry is a great agency with a dedicated staff and hundreds of volunteers. Our clients are well-served and treated with dignity.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a board member and occasional volunteer. I have been impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers and their genuine empathy for the clients. The client choice model is efficient and affirming.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started coming with my teen-agers for service credit. It was such a great experience, that I now attend without them. But it is a very popular place to volunteer, so plan ahead in case there are too many staffed volunteers that same day! It is a lovely, dignified exchange between volunteers and clients.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

OPRF Food Pantry is one of the best pantries in Cook County, now serving 1400 families every month. The pantry offers full, client-choice service to its clients, along with nutrition programs, benefits counseling, and food stamp (SNAP) application assistance. The staff and volunteers are inspiring people--working consistently above and beyond the call to provide superior service to our client base. The pantry serves not just the near west suburbs, but most of the west side of the city, and counts on hundreds of individual donors. But we need more support, especially from our corporate and foundation partners, to keep our services strong.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I moved to Oak Park this apst summer and was thrilled to get involved in the community by volunteering at the Food Pantry. The other volunteers are so much fun to work with, and it is a joy to serve our clients.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a volunteer with and donor to the OPRF Food Pantry becuase it addresses a basic need for many area families in an efficient and respectful manner.

The OPRF Food Pantry leverages its resources extremely well in the following ways:

- Clients can select their food just as in a supermarket, receiving meat, dairy, fresh and canned vegetables and fruit, pasta, PB&J, snack foods and toiletries.
- Information about other forms of assistance is provided to clients, as well as dietary and menu planning help
- Pantry offerings are efficiently procured by leveraging funds for food purchases from the USDA and Greater Chicago Food Depository, 'rescuing' day-old (but still perfectly fine!) produce and baked goods from area grocery stores and taking in food donations
- The Pantry is effectively overseen by a volunteer Board and small paid staff, who coordinate all the operations and recruit/organize a large stable of volunteers

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

me a satisfying sense of doing something specific to assist. I plan to volunteer as long as I am able.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

I worked at the Food Pantry for a number of years before joining the Board. I agreed to joi the Board because OPRF Food Pantry is not only providing an absolutely needed service in the community, it does it with caring, friendliness and the ability to make each guest comfortable. The expansion of the Client Choice program is an example of how the OPRF Food Pantry team looks to take any stigma out of needing to use the Pantry. Kathy Russell and her team are absolutely the best!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a very organized group and personally very rewarding to volunteer for. The new shoppers choice system is so excellent as the food recipients are treated as if in a grocery store with a choice of items . This system is more dignified for the recipients. Also with this shoppers choice system I think there is less wasted food as in the past many people received food they couldn't use (due to allergies or diabetes, etc.). Sometimes now a person will just bypass the fruit (for example) if they cannot take the sugar. As a vlounteer you are slotted in a spot when you arrive and become productive right away. There is sufficient training for new volunteers also.

I also enjoy the seasonal give-aways of turkeys or hams with the lottery. My only complaint is that some recipients didn't know they had received the ham/turkey (via lottery). I am not sure if it is the food pantry's fault but a number of people came who did NOT receive the ham/turkey and also many whose names were drawn did NOT show up. Volunteers were on the phone calling those who had not shown up at the last minute. I am not sure how to improve the lottery process.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Nice people in need. Nice people who volunteer. Sorry, I think that says it all.

Review from Guidestar

Julie H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My daughter and I love volunteering at the OPRF Food Pantry. Everyone is so friendly, warm, caring and fun to be around! We enjoy meeting the clients and sharing a smile. This pantry is so well-organized, so well-run, it's just unbelievable. I have also referred some people to use the pantry as clients and they come back to me with glowing reports. This is a real gem of our community. Keep up the good work!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered for the pantry for nearly two years and have been surprised by the constant growth in the need for services and impressed by the pantry's ability to not only keep up to meet demand, but improve their services at the same time. The organization and layout of the space has improved, client choice (shopping) added and the food choices expanded to include healthful whole grains, fresh produce and dairy. From a business perspective it is great how involved the pantry is in the community--the directors write the local papers, look for grants and push for creative food and fund drives. Their dedication assures the health and growth of this great source of help for those in need.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a wonderful volunteer experience because:

you always meet other interesting people;
there is plenty of meaningful work to be done;
the atmosphere is organized and well run;
your time is well used and appreciated;
the leadership is superior;
your efforts are needed and valued; and
there is a wonderful variety of work to be done!

I highly recommend this "work"!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I moved to Oak Park about five years ago and was looking for a volunteer opportunity. I found the Food pantry. Five years ago we served perhaps 50 families on a busy Wednesday and maybe 75 on a busy Saturday. This past November we served 320 families on the Saturday before Thanksgiving! We are open each Wednesday and Saturday and each shift I see some familiar faces but also new faces filled with hunger, as well as shame and fear at having to visit a food pantry in order to feed themselves and their families. The extraordinary directors and staff welcome everyone and make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We all know we are but one disaster away from standing in line ourselves. We offer not only food but respect and a kind word or a joke. We offer hot cocoa on cold days and books to take home all the time. We do our best to fill specific needs. We offer fresh produce and bakery bread. We have an on site nutritionist. We carry the groceries to the cars. We have great volunteers and generous donors. The Client Choice model which allows clients to push a shopping cart and make their own selection so far surpasses the former model of just presenting clients with bags of groceries. Our touch is kind and personal. We have signage in Spanish and as often as possible translators on site. The phenomenal Walk In Ministry shares our space and works so hard to make our clients' lives easier.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As an interior designer I have worked with the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry to decorate their space and have been impressed many times at the concern of the staff and volunteers about their environment. They very much want to provide services with dignity and grace and realize that the appearance of the pantry can contribute to that objective.
Not every social service agency takes this extra step. I applaud them in their efforts and their acknowledgement that feeding the soul is an important part of feeding the body.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at the food pantry for almost a year now. In that year it has changed (gotten even better) since October of 2010. That is when we changed to give our clients the experience of shopping at a grocery store and enabling them to make their own choices of food, toiletries, etc. Instead of being given a 'hand-out' of pre-packed bags of food, the clients are now given the opportunity to be in control and exercise their choice. This method of distribution has provided a great opportunity for the volunteers to interact with our clients, and each other. When I volunteer at distribution I always, always get such thanks from the clients and I always leave so thankful for what I have. I also find the volunteers interact with other volunteers much more with the current method of distribution. It's good to know your fellow volunteer.

The food pantry provides many different opportunities to volunteer-weekly distributions of food (registration, distribution of food, valeting, set ups for distribution, produce/bread rescues, unloading delivery of food, clean ups and miscellaneous events. There is something for everyone-individual, family, young, old, physically active or slower paced.

It is amazing to me what the food pantry is able to do with the limited resources it has on hand. But, that is do to the dedicated office staff, many volunteers and the very generous support from the community. Support comes in many forms for the food pantry. Hundreds of hours are volunteered during a month, but the pantry also receives many donations of food and toiletries, as well as cash. While cash is the best donation for the food pantry (as 1$ can be used to buy 11$ of food), it is amazing what the community does to support the food pantry. From an annual Girl Scout drive, to random food drives by local school children, local businesses, local churches, boy scouts, neighborhoods and even families growing a summer garden and donating fresh produce.

This food pantry is a truly amazing place to volunteer. You will get back much more than you give, I promise.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i have been there only a year and a half and they are a excellent bunch of people and they have excellent service and i would say that they handle the place exsquitely well

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with the food pantry for over a year after retiring from 40 years of social service work. At first I hestitated to volunteer for the food pantry fearing I would have to continue to experience under staffing, few resources and general failure to meet customer needs. However, I have found my volunteer work with the food pantry to be very rewarding. It is a well run organization with staff and volunteers dedicated to the customers they serve. Given the limited number of paid staff it is amazing what they are able to accomplish. The volunteers are equally hard working. Customers receive quality and varied food offerings from can goods, meat and dairy, to fresh fruit and vegetables rescued from local food vendors. The pantry is able to purchase $11.00 worth of food for $1.00 thus expanding their ability to serve an ever increasing population of indivduals in need of food. The individuals served by the pantry is varied and includes the elderly living on fixed incomes, the unemployed or underemployed, homeless indivduals and those with physical or mental disabilities, grandmothers raising grandchildren, the list goes on. Food is such a basic human need and the indivduals and families served by the food pantry are so greatful for the assistance. Everytime I volunteer customers repeatedly thank the staff for the food and other items they receive. It is a very rewarding place to volunteer.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great place to volunteer. It is always a frenzy of activity when I show up, but for the newcomer there is always somebody ready to point you in the right direction and get you going. I'm impressed with the people I have worked with and admire the program very much.

Review from Guidestar