Blog

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.

October 31st, 2013

In Mississippi, the infamous Chupacabra has made reported appearances. In Rhode Island, a snowman is terrorizing pedestrians. At Loaves & Fishes, we have had the pleasure of seeing the spirit(s) of Halloween incarnated by our volunteers!


October 29th, 2013

Daniela, age 10, is featured in November

Daniela, age 10, is featured in November

“I am 10 years old. I like to help people. My favorite sport is swimming. My favorite subject in school is science. I would like to be a teacher when I grow up.” These are the words of Daniela, age 10, whose drawing, titled “People Helping Each Other,” is featured as the November artwork in the Loaves & Fishes 2014 Calendar. Daniela’s drawing, accompanied by the artwork of 11 other children, paints a literal picture of how Loaves & Fishes affects their families.

Smiling faces, full plates, and sunshine adorn many of the drawings. José, age 11, created a new Loaves & Fishes design which resembles a shield or badge. While the subjectivity of art can be argued, José’s drawing gives rise to Loaves & Fishes being perceived as a protector for families in our community. Overall, our child artists are a talented bunch, and we are honored to share their artwork with you in our 2014 Calendar.

2013 Calendar Artist Celebration at Loaves & Fishes

2013 Calendar Artist Celebration at Loaves & Fishes

As if the touching stories and heartfelt pictures weren’t enough, we are also thrilled to share that the proceeds from our calendar sales will help nourish these creative children to keep them healthy and active! You can have a copy of this calendar for just $10 PLUS you will be contributing to the smiling faces and full plates for children like Daniela and José. By selling 5 calendars, Loaves & Fishes is able to provide a full year of milk for a family with children, and by selling 21 calendars, we can provide a full year of supplemental nutrition for a school-aged child!

Please email Diane Ramonas to order your copy today!

October 27th, 2013

Thanks to Bob Fischer, president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation, for spreading the word about our Trick-or-Treat for Loaves & Fishes!

Excerpt from The Naperville Sun:
In the spirit of full disclosure, my annual candy forecast is never right. Every year there is more candy than kids. This could be a good thing for laggards to the front porch, because some years the last ones showing up have been known to get a bonus allotment. The downside is that, one of these Halloweens, I might listen to my wife and downsize the expectations. Of course, I would risk the consequences of not answering the doorbell once the cupboard is bare.

Until then, and based on prior experience, I anticipate spending somewhere between $30 and $40 for less-than-healthy high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden goodies with the potential to exacerbate childhood obesity, contribute to poor dental checkups, increase incidents of hyperactivity and promote generally poor nutrition.

If the local kids agree, though, there could be a better alternative.

Loaves and Fishes, our local food pantry, is providing labels to tape onto a water bottle. This label indicates that the kid is collecting coins, not candy, to help feed those in need. Loaves and Fishes tells us that a water bottle filled with dimes will total about $90. Because Loaves and Fishes can buy $10 worth of food (at retail) for every dollar collected, a bottle full of dimes will transform into $900 worth of groceries on the food pantry shelves.

Read full article here.