Want to help the needy this holiday season?
The North Avenue Business Association has kicked off its annual fall food drive that will benefit the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, 848 Lake St., and St. Cyprian’s Ecumenical Food Pantry, 6535 W. Irving Park Road.
The pantries, which serve Austin and other West Side communities along with the surrounding Cook County suburbs, are looking for the following items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, rice, dried beans, boxed stuffing, canned vegetables, canned fruit, peanut butter, tomato sauce, mac and cheese, boxed snacks, cereal and dried pasta, among other non-perishables.
Donated items can be dropped off at the following North Avenue Business Association member businesses during open hours:
- Al-Mart Furniture and Bedding, 7045 W. North Ave., Oak Park
- ABC Bank, 6400 W. North Ave., Austin
- FirstMerit Bank, 1606 N. Harlem Ave., Elmwood Park
- Serrelli’s Finer Foods, 6454 W. North Ave., Austin
- US Bank, 6011 W. North Ave., Oak Park
Donations can also be brought to the Sayre Language Academy, 1850 N. Newland Ave.
Students at Harbor Academy, 6525 W. North Ave., will be collecting backpacks and school materials for high school kids.
“This is an opportunity for the businesses and the community to work together to help those in need,” said Wendy Tannenbaum, president of the North Avenue Business Association, which works to promote the business district along North Avenue between Harlem Avenue and Austin Boulevard.
Kathy Russell, executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, said the pantry saw more than 1,600 families in October, the most families in recent years, and donations are needed.
The cost of food has gone up, too. Last year, the pantry’s allotment of food cost $5.41, and this year it’s $10.99, Russell said.
Russell said a monetary donation is also helpful.
Money goes further,” she said. “We can buy (food) at the local food bank, and every dollar we buy with, we get $8 worth of food.”
The Rev. Jo Carol Bundy, director of St. Cyprian’s Ecumenical Food Pantry, said this Thanksgiving, the pantry passed out food packages to 275 families (about 1,000 people).
“We are looking forward to assisting all the families in need this Christmas, as the need is great,” Bundy said. “It’s a privilege to be part of this community outreach.”
The various drop-off centers will accept donations until Dec. 15. Money can be given to either food pantry in lieu of food. Call the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry at 708-386-1324 or St. Cyprian’s Ecumenical Food Pantry at 773-283-9178.
For additional information about the food drive, contact the North Avenue Business Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.