The Journal received this letter over Christmas from the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry. It made us feel good about our communities and we bet you’ll feel good, too.

Dear Wednesday Journal,

We must pass on this e-mail from a new client from our Dec. 22 distribution of food at Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry. It is truly a Christmas story and demonstrates the power of a community coming together, not just at the holidays, but all year long:

“So, this afternoon, I went to Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry. It was the first time I actually stayed and went through the entire process.

“Never in my life could I have imagined the love that I was shown by each woman helping me shop for items. Never in my life did I expect to receive so much food when I truly had none, as the blessing you provided me went to pay a utility bill rather than buy food. Each person I encountered at the food pantry who was a volunteer and who, upon me informing them that I was new to the pantry and didn’t know how it worked, welcomed me and made me feel special. The volunteers not only made me feel special, but they made me feel less alone, as I sat in the back in a single chair with no one sitting beside me. A few of the volunteers touched my shoulder. The young teenage volunteers greeted me with smiles. One young lady must have known I like to bake and gave me the last, most beautiful bag of everything a baker needs to make cookies or a great cake. The two young gentlemen who helped me to my car almost brought me to tears, as they carefully put each bag away for me — I couldn’t thank them enough.

“As I went to each table, not knowing what to expect, each volunteer and each person made me feel less afraid, less ashamed, and just filled with gratefulness to be there.

“Then, I was leaving, two of the women spoke a blessing over me by telling me that my new year would be far better. I told them I had been laid off, and hadn’t expected to use the pantry but was so incredibly grateful that they were all there. I cried all the way home, thanking God at each stop light. As I write this believing that 2011 will be a better year for me, I am already thinking of ways to give back; to give to each one of the volunteers I met today and especially the two young men who helped me to my car and the ways in which I might be able to help the pantry.

“Thank you for being a blessing in my life. Thank you to the volunteers whose care of me and dignified treatment made my first food pantry experience a less frightening, troubling one. Thank you to those volunteers who smiled at me or touched my shoulder or just wished me a Merry Christmas.”

The Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry would like to thank all its many volunteers, donors, supporters. That includes the 10-year-old that brought over his savings of $68, the village member that donates thousands of dollars, to the school children and youth, postal workers and Girl Scouts who run awesome food drives and congregations that collect food every week. Thanks to those that volunteer their time organizing food, picking up produce from local grocers, offloading a truck of food, serving clients or carrying food to cars. Thanks to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Ultra Foods and Penzy Spices who donate produce and spices. Thanks to the pantry board members and pantry staff who offer so much of their time, talent and treasure. You have made a difference in so many lives while fulfilling our mission of “working together to provide hunger relief in our community.” Thank you.

Kathy Russell
Executive Director
Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry

Michele Zurakowski
Director of Operations

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