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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry

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Community Stories

44 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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

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

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

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

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at the OPRF Foor Pantry for over ten years. I have never had a more satisfying volunteer experience. The Pantry staff and volunteers are committed to continuous improvement and provide guests with a dignifed experience as well as nutritious food they are able to choose for themselves. This is an organization & group of people to be proud of.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am just starting as a volunteer but it is easy to see that these folks are dedicated to their cause. The organizing of volunteers is exceptional and their system of/for distribution seems very well thought out.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began working at the Oak Park-River Forest Pantry early last fall, when they were rolling out their new concept of client choice. Under this system, clients are given choices of nutritious foods so that they can pick out items that fit the needs and tastes of their families. I am delighted to be part of an organization that provides such vital services at a really good price, combining donated food items with food purchased through the Chicago Food Depository.

A shift on distribution at the Pantry is very special. Volunteers are cheerful and kind, and the dignity of the clients is always preserved. We help them with food choices, give them carts and bags to shop with, and provide valet help to get their items to their cars. We treat the clients as honored customers, and their reactions are often very touching. I hear comments like "Thank God for the Pantry," and "God bless you for caring about us" frequently. As a volunteer, I feel that my time is appreciated and that the Pantry is very well organized. It is a wonderful place to volunteer, and is a wonderful cause to support, one that uses resources thoughtfully and carefully, and treats clients with kindness and respect. I am proud to be a part of this organization, and support it's efforts financially when I am able to do so.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Such a well organized, clean, friendly place to volunteer. You can tell that everyone really cares for people and wants to do the best to help.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This place is awesome. The staff are caring and helpful, and never seem to tire of doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. It has been so intense in the last few years, volume has increase gigantically. And they are always graceful about changing to accommodate the needs of their clients. It is also very welcoming to clients. I bring my children to help bag food and they really enjoy it. The first time the kids came, the staff helped him celebrate his birthday, what a wonderful way for a child to celebrate his birthday!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I was never very much for being one who chips in to help others, but a good friend of mine is a volunteer and she talked me into going and helping one Saturday. I actually went just to try to score points with her and I was not really caring about the pantry at all. They started me off in the bagging of the food area, I did not have much reaction with the patrons but got to see a lot of good people and kids working their butts off to load all the bags. As i was putting the food in the bags I got the feeling how lucky I was that I could afford food and how unfortunate that everyone does not have that same luxury as I do. It was a eye opener to see that there are unfortunate people and that all of us together can help.

Review from Guidestar