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April 21st, 2014

Spring cleaning can finally begin now that the winter has released its firm grip on the suburbs. As we start emptying our cabinets and throwing away unwanted items, the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual Stamp Out Hunger food collection is a reminder that we live among neighbors who cannot afford nutritious foods for their families.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This incredible single-day food drive is especially crucial in the wake of rising food prices for items such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and fresh produce. In her article, “Met and Produce Prices Lead Surge in Food Costs,” Alison Griswold discusses how “consumers will be spending proportionately more of their income on trips to the grocery. This leaves less pocket money for other discretionary spending, which isn’t great for the economy.” At Loaves & Fishes, our team prepares for potentially more clients visiting our grocery market to save for other household expenses, and we are hopeful that our current partnerships with local grocery stores will continue to donate a similar amount of these products as part of our food rescue efforts.

In addition to our food recovery, we are seeking assistance from the Naperville community through Stamp Out Hunger. In a recent article in the Naperville Sun, Susan Frick Carlman describes the extraordinary goal that has been set by local leadership. “Maria Espinosa and Lyphus Stevenson plan to boost the local numbers substantially, though they recognize it’s an ambitious objective. This year’s goal of 55,000 pounds exceeds the Naperville carriers’ record year by 10 percent.”

Credit: Naperville Community Television 17

Credit: Naperville Community Television 17

We were honored to be present at the April 15th Naperville City Council Meeting when the proclamation that May 10, 2014 is National Food Drive Day to Stamp Out Hunger was issued. With this proclamation, we anticipate greater community support for our low-income neighbors. Postmaster Kenneth Kronberg agrees that this year will be a huge success, “‘I think with Maria and Lyphus there, they’re going to get 100,000,’ he said. ‘I guarantee they will.’”

You can help us achieve our goal by placing a bag of food beside your mailbox by 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 10th for your mail carrier to help Stamp Out Hunger! Paper goods and nonperishable items are welcome; please check out our Most Needed Items list to help Loaves & Fishes stock up on necessary nutrition! You can also help by sharing this story via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or by email by using the links below. We appreciate your help in spreading the word!

For full “Met and Produce Prices Lead Surge in Food Costs” article, click here.
For full “Delivering nourishment: Post Office seeks to collect record amount of food” article, click here.

April 16th, 2014

8-day old Daniel posed with his mom, Samantha, in our grocery market today while they were shopping. Notice the cute stuff bunnies to his left? Those were put together by Barb Ryan, our volunteer, who has been handing them out to children all week! Thanks to all our friends who make adorable moments like this possible!
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March 27th, 2014

Spring has finally arrived, accompanied by a sense of growth and renewal. Just as the earth renews itself and green grass, flowers, and trees begin to awaken from their winter slumber, Loaves & Fishes continues to grow and renew our purpose.

Our enhanced Smart Check nutrition program helps to educate client families in recognizing the benefits of the variety of healthy products stocked throughout the Client Choice distribution center in a new configuration.

Empowerment programs continue to expand. At press time, more clients and community members will have filed their basic tax returns through our award-winning Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program than the entire previous tax season.

Our best in class food recovery program is the centerpiece of our sustainability practices. Did you know we recover an average of 60,000 pounds of nutritious foods each week that would otherwise end up in landfills? And that’s just the beginning. Read more about our recycling and other “green” activities.

Our recently founded Young Community Action Network (YCAN) brings young professionals together to combine networking with mission engagement in a fun atmosphere.

Share the Joy celebrates the jubilant feelings Loaves & Fishes volunteers bring to the people they serve while
deriving joy from their work. This new initiative will spread that emotion throughout the community to inspire broader engagement.

Loaves & Fishes will kick off our 30th year of service at Day Without Hunger on Friday, June 13th. Join us to learn how our mission will continue to grow as we expand our efforts to end hunger and empower community, and how you can be part of it.

~Charles

February 5th, 2014

Today marks the first request for food made to St. Raphael Catholic Church, answered by what would soon become Loaves & Fishes. As the demand for our services grew, the outpouring of community support was inspiring. As we reach our 30th year anniversary (which will kick off at Day Without Hunger), Loaves & Fishes is pleased to share new opportunities for those looking to get involved with Loaves & Fishes!

DSC_0319Being a fully functioning warehouse, Loaves & Fishes has been dedicated to ensuring a safe environment for our volunteers, which meant that children could not volunteer during regular volunteer hours. Since so many families are interested in volunteering as a group, this became problematic, especially because we know how important it is for children to understand our community needs and how they can make a difference in the lives of others, even at a young age. Our team continued brainstorming, and thanks to the leadership of Patrice and Jim Lia, Kids Care2 was launched to provide family volunteering opportunities as well as special Loaves & Fishes’ birthday parties. We are so excited to share our mission with local kids!

While we continue to expand our opportunities for our youngest community members, Loaves & Fishes has also introduced the Young Community Action Network (YCAN) to engage young adults. So many individuals are interested in getting involved with our mission; however, due to their busy professional life, they are unable to make time to volunteer and feel like a part of the Loaves & Fishes family. YCAN combines elements of a networking group and social club with the goal of raising awareness for a good cause. For more information, email Matt Chicola, Advancement Coordinator, at mchicola@loaves-fishes.org.

1798575_10151888843185583_1901788926_nAs for our current and future volunteers, Loaves & Fishes is taking the next step in our evolution to provide the highest quality service: volunteer training videos. By creating these modules, we can ensure our volunteers receive the same training for new tasks that may be unfamiliar to them. Moreover, this benefits our clients because they will have a consistent, positive experience each time they visit.

We are honored to share these developments with you in hopes that you will join our team, or if you are already on our team, we hope you will invite someone else who was unable to join before! Be a part of it today!

December 26th, 2013

Before the holiday, I was making my way into the city via the Green Line to have dinner with some friends. It was a cold winter day, and after a few stops, two men got on the train and sat nearby. Seeing as how it take about 30-40 minutes to get to the loop from Oak Park, I had settled in with my headphones on and was lost in thought about my plans for the night.

I was pulled from my trance when I noticed that the two men were looking up at the transit map and discussing the necessary transfers. While I am no expert of the city, my phone usually guides me to where I need to go, so I offered my assistance and asked, “can I help you? Where are you going?”

“To the homeless shelter,” was the response, “and we need to be there by 7:30.” Up until that point, I had not considered these guys to be homeless. Sure, they were bundled up in older clothes; however, as I have learned at Loaves & Fishes, poverty comes in many forms. I quickly mapped out their route and explained it to them.

“Is that the iPhone 5?” one of the guys, who introduced himself as Greg, asked.

“Nope,” I replied. “This is the 4s. I got it through work.”

“What do you do?” Greg asked.

“Work for a nonprofit called Loaves & Fishes,” I responded. “We are a community center that offers food, job search support, ESL and computer classes, and more.”

“Job search support,” Greg repeated. “That is what I really need right now.”

After explaining how the program worked and describing where we are located in relation to mass transit, Greg asked, “Got a card?”

“Sure!” I fetched one out of my wallet and handed it over. Then, him and his friend were out of the train car and back to battling the cold air in their search for shelter for the night. Suddenly, I was wracked with guilt and remorse. I didn’t have any cash or gift cards, but why didn’t I offer them my Ventra card? Surely there could have been something more I could have gave them!

After contemplating the whole interaction during the remainder of my ride, I came to realize that I was agitated because that could have been me. While I am generally a bad judge of age, I assumed Greg was close to my age. If I did not have a supportive network of family and friends, that could have been me on the train trying to navigate to the homeless shelter. Sure, Greg could have had some additional background issues that I was not made aware of but that seemed irrelevant when considering that this guy was just seeking normalcy and a better life.

Before exiting the train, I had a moment of clarity and was calmed when I considered what I was able to offer Greg: assistance through Loaves & Fishes. While some cash or a gift card would help him immediately, the job search support program can have a long-term impact on his life. Loaves & Fishes is able to make a difference in our neighbors’ lives by empowering them toward self-sufficiency through our programs. By handing off my card, Greg can be connected to services that build up his confidence and skills, so he is ready for employment.

I hope to hear from Greg in the new year, so I can put him into contact with our program leaders. Then, after he has received assistance and finds the normalcy he is seeking, he can be the person on the train speaking to someone else who is going through a difficult time and describing how Loaves & Fishes has affected his life.

~Matt Chicola, Advancement Coordinator

December 12th, 2013

At Loaves & Fishes, we are privileged to work alongside many talented individuals who put in countless hours to make a difference in our community. This month, Jim & Patrice Lia, who received the Fireball Award in November from Loaves & Fishes, were named Volunteers of the Month by Naperville Bank & Trust.

Credit: Positively Naperville

Credit: Positively Naperville

“When first married, Jim and I were on food stamps,” explained Patrice. “It is demeaning to go to the grocery store with food stamps, but we know there was a reason for going through rough patches.”

Whether leading clients, volunteers and staff in the Human Race; helping to coordinate Day Without Hunger; or creating a new children’s birthday initiative, the Lias are a motivational force who in turn are motivated by the clients.

“At the Human Race, we were standing at the starting point, and I was standing alongside a client,” said Patrice. “I got choked up listening to the National Anthem, and she took my hand and held it. This was a very special day.”

The Lias are compassionate leaders who make it their goal to provide for their neighbors. “If we are out in the community, clients will walk up and give us a hug. They aren’t embarrassed. That is the welcoming attitude that Loaves & Fishes conveys,” said Jim.

Credit: Health Care Service Corporation

Credit: Health Care Service Corporation

The Lias weren’t the only volunteers recognized for their outstanding work this month; Jim Barone, who leads a group of Blue Cross Blue Shield employees to volunteer monthly at L&F, was named the Health Care Service Corporation’s 2013 Blue Corps Volunteer of Year!

In an article published in The Sacramento Bee, Jim is quoted, saying “I’m proud to be recognized for contributing to my community in a way that makes a real impact on the lives of those in need. HCSC makes volunteerism a core part of how we do business and I’m honored to be part of continuing that tradition.”

Read more here about Jim’s award here.

December 5th, 2013

givingtuesFB25When Loaves & Fishes decided to participate in a #GivingTuesday campaign, we secured a $20,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. Little did we know that by noon on Tuesday, the grant was increased to $25,000 and we were on our way to earning $97,147.89 for the entire day!

Charles McLimans, Executive Director/CEO, said the overwhelming community response was a tremendous inspiration.

“It is so inspiring for me to witness this outpouring of love and generosity directed towards our friends and neighbors in need,” Charles said. “Loaves & Fishes connects community to compassion, and we are so blessed to live in such a caring and giving community.”

The Giving Tuesday donations will help us address the essential human service needs of thousands of Naperville and DuPage County families. A total of 2,873 households (59 new), 11,720 people, 4,962 children, and 825 seniors received groceries and benefited from collaborative Pathways to Empowerment programs in the month of November. Charles noted that while Loaves & Fishes averaged 600 families per week for much of the year, it recently served a record 880 families several weeks ago, and demand continues to exceed the norm due in part to recent cuts to the food stamp program. Thanks to everyone that participated!

November 12th, 2013

Celebration Community Life Center

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On November 8th, Loaves & Fishes held the Celebration of Compassion at the Celebration Community Life Center in Naperville to announce this year’s honorees. Guests included major supporters as well as volunteers who donated more than 100 hours of time during the year ended June 30th.

Charles McLimans presented the awards, donated by John Robbins of Awards & Fine Gifts, Naperville, communicating each honoree’s accomplishments.  A Lifetime Achievement award – only the second ever given – was presented to the Ed Hoy family. Patriarch Ed Hoy passed away earlier this year, and his family has continued its storied tradition of exemplary volunteerism and support. Jody Bender recently celebrated her 10-year work anniversary and was the first staff member honored. Awards and certificates reflecting each of our core values, and the Fireball award, which encompasses all core values, were given to the following:

  • Lifetime Achievement – The Ed Hoy Family
  • Community – Doris & Alice Wood
  • Compassion (2) – Andy Lindsay, Tom Wcisel
  • Dignity – Ned Bacon
  • Hope – Dave Kelsch
  • Service (4) – Bob Elazan, Alex Lints, Elizabeth May, Jody Bender
  • Fireball – Jim & Patrice Lia
  • Outstanding Community Partner (2) – Whole Foods Naperville, The Rotary Club of Naperville

We were proud to present a special gift to each guest, as well as our Power of Compassion annual report, which highlights the collective efforts of the Loaves & Fishes family over the past year.

 

November 7th, 2013

When you think about Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Is it an image of a perfectly roasted golden turkey surrounded by your favorite side dishes on the dinner table? Is it the smell of a luscious pumpkin pie being pulled from the oven? Is it the sound of laughter as your loved ones enjoy the delicious offerings of the day?

Thanks to our generous supporters, Loaves & Fishes’ clients are also able to reminisce fondly when thinking about last year’s Thanksgiving. Just take a look at Jennifer’s letter below (click on the image to enlarge it) to see the impact the HOPE Holiday Food Drive had on her family’s Thanksgiving:
Jennifer's Letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating joyous holiday memories for a family is so gratifying, and we hope to have your support this year so we can continue to bring cheer to our neighbors in need, like Jennifer. You can help Loaves & Fishes provide HOPE today – just check out this page to learn how!

November 2nd, 2013

November is here, which unfortunately means drastic cuts to food stamp benefits. According to USA Today, “a family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36…Vulnerable populations [such as the elderly and children] will be hardest hit by the cuts.”

How will this affect individuals in our community? At Loaves & Fishes, we are prepared to see an increase in new family enrollments and an increase in client visits. NCTV17 spoke with Charles McLimans, Executive Director/CEO, about SNAP cuts and the impact it will have on local residents.

For the full USA Today article, click here.