A number of regional not-for-profit leaders have found that collaborating has made them stronger in their ability to deliver services to families in need. West Suburban Community Pantry in Woodridge reports offering food resources to DuPage PADS for their sheltered guests. The Pantry has also been collaborating with colleagues at Chicago’s Lakeview Pantry, as well as Loaves and Fishes in Naperville and People’s Resource Center in Wheaton, Tri Town YMCA in Lombard and Hinsdale Family Services. Now the Pantry has partnered with the Thierer Family Foundation to develop an online platform whereby organizations on the front lines of delivering food and related services can share lessons learned.
“Our goal in working with Thierer was to allow other organizations across the country to access the knowledge we already have, so they can hit the ground running when the crisis hits their communities, and not have to reinvent the wheel,” say Laura Coyle, Executive Director of West Suburban Community Pantry . “The critical outcome is to make everyone more effective in successfully feeding people in need in their communities.”
The online Forum allows organizations to use a chat function to share experiences and seek advice as well as to post resources; sample documents and messaging that might be helpful as groups across the country ramp up their emergency programs. West Suburban Community Pantry has also offered a timeline of milestone events in the Chicago area progression of the crisis. “We were able to timeline what we did when the first CDC advice came down, and then when the social distance recommendations came down, and when hoarding slowed our retail donations, and when schools closed, and when the shelter-at-home order was announced,” says Coyle. “It’s been a changing landscape almost every day and I hope that our experience will be helpful to others. In addition to procuring and providing food, keeping clients, staff, volunteers and food donors safe through all of this is a paramount concern,” Coyle says.
The West Suburban Community Pantry has seen a 60% increase in demand for food in the past three weeks. Food is currently being distributed in pre-packed boxes rather than by shopping inside the Pantry. The Pantry provides both shelf-stable food stuffs bi-weekly and fresh produce, eggs, milk, bread and proteins weekly to families in need in Naperville, Lisle, Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Willowbrook, Westmont and Romeoville. The Thierer Family Foundation’s mission is to increase the impact of nonprofit organizations by helping them leverage innovative ideas and technology in order to be more effective, efficient and sustainable.
“In situations like this, time is of the essence. Food pantries across the country are all making quick decisions to meet the increased need. The more efficiently food pantries can make these decisions, the more quickly food can be received by the people who need it. Bringing food pantries together to leverage collective knowledge will make a huge difference,” says Nasrin Thierer, President, Thierer Family Foundation. “West Suburban Community Pantry recognized the need to be in communication with and learn from other pantries, and came to us with this idea. By leveraging existing technologies, we were able to help West Suburban Community Pantry quickly and affordably set up a community forum in a matter of days. We are hopeful that this solution will help pantries work together in order make smart, quick decisions that make the whole sector stronger and enable each pantry to better able to serve their communities in this time of great need.”
Donations of cash, food and cardboard boxes are welcome. For more information visit www.wscpantry.org