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Message from Executive Director/CEO Charles McLimans

Given at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Naperville on Sunday, February 12, 2012: Since the First Sunday after Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. It is very significant and important for us to remember that Jesus was baptized by John to acknowledge full acceptance of his humanity. As Christians, we are baptized in order to fully receive and accept the life of Christ within us. So, we continually ask ourselves, how do we live the life of Christ? Already in just the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, after Jesus is baptized, he accomplishes a great deal. He’s baptized, then he’s temped by Satan in the desert, he goes to Galilee to begin his ministry and calls the First Disciples. He teaches, he cures a man possessed by a demon, he cure’s Simon’s mother-in-law, he heals a bunch more people, leaves Capernaum to try to get some rest, and as we hear in today’s Gospel, cures a leper. (That’s a lot of work for one man!  I can imagine Jesus was tired after all that!) Even though no one in Jesus’ day would have dreamed to touch a leper, an unclean person, Jesus is moved with pity for the leper because the leper asks him to heal him with faith. Even though it was against the mandates of Jewish tradition, Jesus is the Creator and so his touch alone renews and heals the man of his unclean, leprous condition. It is important to note here that Jesus heals with compassion and that throughout his ministry he goes out to the people, and he also allows people in need to come to him. Jesus ministered, healed, and created a new wherever he went and wherever he was. If we jump ahead in Mark to Chapter 8, verses 1-10, Jesus is once again found teaching and ministering to the people: In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets. There were about four thousand people. This is Mark’s account of the Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes. Each of the four evangelists wrote about this miracle, as they also mentioned Jesus healing or cleansing lepers, or unclean people. Once again we hear that Jesus’ heart is moved with pity and compassion for the crowd. So I’d like us to reflect on Jesus’ actions and ask ourselves a couple of questions: 1. Who are the lepers, the unclean, the off limits, the outcast of our society, or our community today? 2. And how do we imitate the ministry of Christ? If we possess the heart of Christ, how are we moved with pity and compassion, like Christ, to heal others through our actions, our ministry? Who are the lepers in our society, and right here in our community? -They are the hungry. -They are the poor. -They are the homeless and jobless. -They are the disabled. -They are the person with AIDS.  They are the alcoholic and the drug addict. -They are those with mental illness. -They are the veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. -They are us How do we imitate Christ? We, as Disciples of Christ, are called to continue the healing ministry of Christ. Through our baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and have Christ within us, and have the ability to heal others as individuals and when we come together in a communal action. We are the living body of Christ. We are the hands of Christ that serve others. We are the voice of Christ that offers words of hope. We are the ears of Christ that hear the cry of the poor, the unclean and the suffering, and we respond. We are the body of Christ acting in the world and we believe that, like Christ, we are in this world to serve God and our brothers and sisters, and we do not exist just for ourselves. I know that today I am preaching to the proverbial choir, since all of you, the community of believers at St. John’s Episcopal, are engaged in actions that continue the ministry of Christ. You get involved and help others and through your actions you heal others and repair a world corrupted by sin and death. Going back to the miracle of the Loaves & Fishes, I am here today also to tell you that the miracle of the Loaves & Fishes continues each day through the miracle of sharing that takes place through this congregation, and throughout our community, by each of us living the life of Christ. At Loaves & Fishes we provide groceries to individuals and families in need, most of which would be considered the lepers of today’s society.  We serve all of Naperville and DuPage County. And if you are not familiar with the changing face of poverty in our community you may ask, is there a need for a food pantry in an affluent community like Naperville? Yes, there is. Let me share with you some of the staggering numbers of people we served just last month, in January 2012: -2,425 households with 9,561 people -4,672 adults -4,082 children (Nearly half of all of our clients are under the age of 18.) -808 seniors -561 Disabled -627 Single moms with children -In the last 7 months (July – Jan) total family visits to Loaves & Fishes have increased 71% over the same period last year! -Households enrolling for the first time are already at 111% of the entire previous fiscal year, in just seven months. I go back to another adage, if you build it, they will come. Our new facility has been open now for just one year. We built it because we did not have the capacity to effectively serve all of the people coming to us in need. People find their way to Loaves & Fishes because they are hungry, they are poor, they are sick, they are depressed, they are disturbed…and we provide them not only with food, but with HOPE. We built our facility in order to better serve our brothers and sisters, mindful of the Core Values of Loaves & Fishes: COMMUNITY, COMPASSION, DIGNITY, HOPE, and SERVICE. These are values that resonate with many people, as Naperville is a caring community. They are also the values Christ embodied throughout his ministry, as he went healing and feeding his people physically, spiritually, and mentally. At Loaves & Fishes, since we opened our new facility, we are building programs that attempt to serve and heal the whole person. Food is our core service and the vision of our organization is ending hunger in our community. However, we have learned that we cannot end hunger in our community by simply giving out more food. We must consider the whole person. Thus, Loaves & Fishes offers programs in collaboration with other nonprofit and corporate partners in the areas of: -Financial assistance (VITA program currently running through April 14th) (IRS) -Public Benefit Assistance (LIHEAP and SNAP/LINK) -Nutrition Education and Urban Farming (Benedictine U., Master Gardeners) -Employment Counseling and Assistance (Community Career Center) -Literacy and ESL (Literacy DuPage and College of DuPage) -Mental Health (Samaritan Interfaith) -And future programs will offer Computer Training and Veterans Services). Like Jesus in the early chapters of Mark, we keep very busy at Loaves & Fishes serving his people! Gratefully, I am here today to share faith with you, to reflect on the life of Christ within us, and to invite you to put your faith into action and get involved with Loaves & Fishes, or with another worthy charity in our community where you can directly be the hands, the face, the voice and heart of Christ to others. Many of you are already committed to serving through Loaves & Fishes, and I thank you. I always tell everyone that there are three resources that we require to make our mission a success: Food, Funds, and Friends. It takes an entire community to feed an entire community, and every member of this community is able to contribute in some way.  The gifts that we have been given by our generous Lord are meant to be shared generously with others. I invite you to come to Loaves & Fishes and experience the ministry of sharing, feeding, healing, and hope that goes on there every day. I invite you to consider Loaves & Fishes when you are sharing your time, talent and treasure with others.  I thank you for inviting me to worship with you today, for accepting me as Jesus accepted the leper, because your faith and witness heal me and give me hope. Together, let us continue responding to our baptismal call by each day loving and serving others, imitating the ministry and life of Christ.

Local food pantry offers healthy options

From the Naperville Sun: Jane Macdonald at L & F There is no question that processed food is cheap. Boxed foods cost less to manufacture which is then passed on to the consumer. When money is tight and time is short, processed food seems the popular choice. Local food pantries typically receive those processed foods that are not only inexpensive but “filling.” In other words, processed foods can feed more at a lower cost. But as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity have become more prevalent (especially in lower income families) food pantry’s such as Naperville’s Loaves and Fishes are stepping up to the plate to offer healthier options. Read article.

2011 Report on Illinois Poverty Finds Poverty Worse in Illinois Today than During the Recession

Poverty, worse in Illinois today than during the recession, grew from pre- to post-recession by 16 percent, according to the 2011 Report on Illinois Poverty released today. In fact, poverty is at its highest point in decades, and 1 in 3 Illinoisans are considered poor or low-income. The Social IMPACT Research Center’s release dovetails with Human Rights Day, and underscores the economic deprivation and threats to dignity and well-being endured by those who live in poverty. In the report, IMPACT documents hardship across a variety of indicators including income, employment, health, housing, and assets. Together these indicators document the conditions faced by struggling families across Illinois. The report includes the following key findings: · At least 1 in 10 people live in poverty in 85 of Illinois’ 102 counties.Median household income has continued the disturbing trend of the past decade. · Currently at $52,972, it has declined 3.4 percent from the recession and 6.9 percent from before the recession. · Illinois must add 528,844 new jobs to fill its job gap (number of jobs lost during the recession and the number of jobs needed for new entrants to the workforce). 2011 Report on Illinois Poverty

Frozen Funds

From the Naperville Sun, 11/9/2011: The federal grant funds that enable Naperville to assist low-income residents and pay for affordable housing and infrastructure development remain unavailable for those purposes. Suspended more than six months ago, the city’s allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds is being withheld until the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is satisfied with the city’s response to audit findings earlier this year. Read article .

Boost to SNAP Benefits Protected Young Children’s Health

From Children’s HealthWatch and Dr. John T. Cook: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) raised Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits across the board by a minimum of 13.6 percent in April 2009. Recent research by Children’s HealthWatch shows that the increase in SNAP benefits protected the health and well-being of very young, low-income children during a period of great financial hardship for many families in America. In the two years after the benefit increase, children in families receiving SNAP were significantly more likely to be classified as “well children” than young children whose families were eligible for but did not receive SNAP. Read publication .

From good times to bad times

Chicago Tribune, September 24, 2011 Once well off, many families sunk by the economy face once-unthinkable choices, as they join millions of others struggling to get by.” Read article.

DuPage County: Snapshot of Poverty, Income, and Health Insurance Coverage

DuPage County Fact Sheet

Impact of new facility on High Grove Lane

By Harsha Talappa, Loaves & Fishes Intern When I walked into Loaves & Fishes last year, it was because I had absolutely nothing to do in the summer and my parents insisted that if I wasn’t going to find a job, I should at ‘least’ volunteer. I honestly didn’t think much of the physical place at first. Loaves & Fishes was a pair of warehouses located behind Naperville North High School. One of the warehouses had pallets stacked high and two rooms: one for our office workers and one as a volunteer break room. The break room was used for meetings, training sessions, and volunteer breaks, but was simply too small to handle all of these roles sufficiently. The office room was always cramped. It was a small room, only slightly larger than my bedroom at home. The major difference between the office and my bedroom, though, was that three or four people always worked in the office, while my bedroom at home supported just me. As you should imagine, the staff of Loaves & Fishes worked in tight quarters. The distribution process, which I was told had seen improved efficiency over the previous few years, remained difficult for volunteers to manage and clients to attend. The client waiting area felt cloistered and lacked air conditioning. I felt the intense heat of Midwest summer days on many afternoons working there. Wayne, the volunteer (still) in-charge of distributing queue numbers to the clients, always had to manage the small area to ensure there was space for all of the clients, which there often wasn’t, and Dan, the volunteer unenviably tasked with managing the parking lot, rarely had a day when he didn’t have to ask clients to move their cars to one of the few spaces. Despite these shortcomings, however, the warehouses that comprised Loaves & Fishes were animated by the people who gave long hours of sweltering summer months to donate their time to our clients. The staff never lost sight of the Loaves & Fishes vision—“to end hunger in our community.” The volunteers were unfailingly polite, a sentiment that was echoed loudly and clearly in the client survey we conducted during my time there. Towards the end of my first internship at Loaves & Fishes, I began to hear murmurs that Charles and the board were pushing for a new building… …And the dream became a reality. In February of this year, our new facility at 1871 High Grove was christened. I returned during my spring break towards the end of April, I saw it for myself. I almost had trouble believing my eyes. Perhaps the most significant improvement was the new distribution area, now structured with shelves like you would find in a grocery store aisle. The new system allows our clients to feel more empowered when moving through the shopping area when compared to our old system. For the first time during this visit, I witnessed the brand new warehouse area. I saw Jerry, our warehouse supervisor, as happy as a kid in a candy shop; he had a much larger warehouse area, a full walk-in cooler, and a forklift! Another enormous improvement over the previous facility is the air-conditioned client waiting area. Just last week, in the midst of the Midwest heat wave, I saw a waiting area full of clients taking refuge from the 100-plus degree weather outside. The office, once too small for personal space, now has four separate rooms and five cubicles, capable of sustaining a full office staff. The physical changes between the old warehouses and the new building are far too much count. The distribution process has changed for the better, too. An electronic numbering system allows Wayne to do his job far more efficiently. He no longer has to yell out numbers. At the end of the distribution area, there is a table for clients to pack groceries into boxes and bags. Outside, clients generally no longer have to park as far as a block away, as our parking area has expanded greatly, from 12 to 52 total spaces. Volunteers also have a parking area. All-in-all, our ability to serve our client population has become far more effective and, I daresay, more enjoyable for all parties involved. As our service area has expanded to include all of DuPage County, we continue to push towards ending hunger in our community. The differences that are apparent since the move do not encompass one key area: our volunteers. Our volunteers are the same smiling, joking, dedicated people they were before the move. Most of our volunteers have stayed with us, and we have added many more. Their exceptional work has allowed Loaves & Fishes to transition from the old location to the new one with ease. Since I have been back, I have seen a Loaves & Fishes that continues to take its goal of ending hunger very seriously. With the new facility, we can come closer to making that goal a reality.

Virtual Backpacks become real for L&F students

The Virtual Backpack Drive conducted online from July 18-31 resulted in generous donations that allowed Loaves & Fishes to purchase an additional 500 backpacks for students entering Grades K-12. These backpacks joined the many school supplies collected by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, which has spearheaded this effort for the past 10 years. On Saturday, August 6th, Loaves & Fishes distributed 600 backpacks and school supplies kits at our first Back2School Fair, which was attended by more than 350 families. Several of our partners were on hand to provide information to students and their families. Samaritan Interfaith offered creative arts therapy and information on dealing with bullying, Literacy DuPage gave away books, Naperville Police Department provided safety tips, DuPage Health Department covered the importance and correct procedure for hand-washing, Benedictine University distributed information on school nutrition basics, District 203 talked to clients about planning for higher education, Open Door  offered benefit information, and Sharing Connections offered referrals for furniture and clothing. Donated raffle prizes included Great Clips haircuts and haircut coupons, Supercuts haircuts, gift certificates for a 6” Subway sandwich, a gallon of milk at Aldi, and passes to the DuPage Children’s Museum. On Monday, August 8th, volunteers led by Nancy Couch of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church assembled another 1,000 school supplies kits. We will distribute them through August 20th during all food pick-up sessions. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this possible!

Loaves & Fishes doesn’t simply offer food; it’s about a much bigger and broader idea.

By Michael Snydel, Loaves & Fishes Intern Working as an intern this summer at Loaves & Fishes has been an enlightening experience, but it could have just as easily never happened. Last summer, I searched in vain for any form of employment. I probably applied to over 50 different places, and while some stores asked for an in-store interview or inquired into my actual availability, most balked at the prospect of a three-month summer employee. In this day and age, it’s more blind luck than anything else to be hired for a part-time job, especially when you’re in direct competition with adults and lack flexibility in your hours. Even without the looming economic reality, jobs are still an out-of-reach luxury for most teenagers.  Eventually, after hours of fruitless searching and seemingly endless rejection, I was prodded out of the house to find productive activity. Loaves & Fishes was the first place I visited. My parents had heard positive word of mouth about Loaves & Fishes, and they thought it would be a good opportunity for me to gain some work experience. At first, I thought I would volunteer a few hours here and there in the warehouse, but as the summer carried on, I found myself volunteering more frequently until I consistently averaged around 15 to 20 hours a week. I began to feel very comfortable in the warehouse, building camaraderie with many of the regular volunteers. More than simple friendship, though, I started to feel a real attachment to the pantry, I felt an obligation to put forth my best effort and work the hardest I could in the time I volunteered. I’m not quite sure when the next part happened, but at some point in the summer the executive director, Charles McLimans, noticed me as a frequent volunteer. He took me aside and asked me whether I would be interested in an internship the subsequent summer. My point is that this lead-up revealed something profound to me: Nothing ever just happens; everything in life requires a push. Good things don’t just happen because you’re a good person or vice versa. That’s not to say I was sleepwalking through my life, but I always felt a sense of waiting, as if something pivotal would occur of its own accord at any moment. It may sound positively simplistic, but it’s not until this summer that I really understood the impact of this idea. This revelation led me to realize that Loaves & Fishes doesn’t simply offer food; it’s about a much bigger and broader idea. The food and groceries we offer are certainly essential and necessary, but they’re only part of our true goal. Loaves & Fishes ultimately seeks to be a catalyst for people to take control of their lives and move forward. Loaves & Fishes offers stability and a chance for our clients to take a step back and figure out their next step. Loaves & Fishes doesn’t want clients to settle into the groove of accepting food if other options are available to them;  we want to spur real change in a person’s life. Unlike most other businesses, we’re not looking for lifelong clients; in fact we want just the opposite. We want to continually lower the number of people who are hurting in the community. As our slogan states, Loaves & Fishes seeks to end hunger and empower lives. Ending hunger is important, but the key lies in the empowerment goal. As the ancient proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, you have him fed for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have him fed for a lifetime.”