Photo by Joe Boyle
The Rev. Edie Lenz, pastor of Hickory Hills Presbyterian Church in Hickory Hills, said that she is gratified by the large amount of donations for the micro food pantry that is located in front of the church.
By Joe Boyle
The Rev. Edie Lenz, the pastor of Hickory Hills Presbyterian Church in Hickory Hills, said while COVID-19 has brought uneasiness and misfortune, this is also a time to open up our hearts.
Providing food for those in need while in the midst of the virus can help, the pastor said. That was how the idea of the micro food pantry was created and is currently located in front of Hickory Hills Presbyterian Church, 8246 W. 95th St.
The idea began during an email committee meeting held on March 28 after the stay-at-home order came from Gov. Pritzker.
"I was aware of micro pantries in other communities," said Lenz, who is in her second year as pastor at the church. "During the email meeting, members of the church discussed the idea and agreed to do it."
The only obstacle now was how is this going to be done? During the meeting, it was learned that a son of one of the members is a carpenter.
"He agreed to do it and said he could have it up soon," Lenz recalled. "He started working on it right away and it was up by the end of that Friday."
The wooden cabinet stands just over eight feet and has several shelves to place non-perishable items. A sign appears just to the left of the structure that indicates it is a micro food pantry. A phrase appears just below the cabinet that reads "Take what you need...Leave what you can."
Lenz said the structure resembles a large kitchen cabinet, a welcoming sign for those who come by. The cabinet is filled with many food products. Anyone in need can simply stop by and take what they need, the pastor said.
The pastor added that all that is asked is that if someone takes food that they can also put something in the pantry if they are able.
This is free to anyone who is need, she said. Lenz added that personal hygiene items are also available.
The pastor was not initially sure how the idea would progress. However, she found out the answer to that question rather quickly.
"The response has been phenomenal," Lenz said. "We have enough food right now to last a long time. We opened it one day and it was overflowing. So we took some items out to put in later. Many community organizations have also been donating."
Suggested items to donate include canned fruits and vegetables, bags of beans, pastas, and snacks for kids. Toothpaste and toiletries have also been donated.
"It's been a light for us," Lenz said. "We have not had any church services or have been meeting in person for well over a month. But this is wonderful. It is so nice that this is being utilized and that so many people are contributing."
Lenz just marked her second anniversary at the church. Her last assignment was in Fulton in rural Illinois. While these are difficult times, the response of the church and surrounding community has been heartwarming, she said.
The first micro food pantries began to appear in Will County in and near Joliet. As many as 20 pantries can be found in the far southwest suburbs.
"It's been a dramatic year," Lenz said. "With food pantries being over-run with many new clients, this is a small way of helping relieve some of their burden and help community residents."