Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School students from the advisory classes of Mr. Madel and Ms. Frick

We love a challenge. Of course we’re lucky — a lot of resources are at our disposal to help meet challenges big and small. But that doesn’t diminish how great we feel about ourselves when a challenge is met. Whoo-hoo! We did it!

Our clients at Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry face daily challenges that aren’t so gratifying. When simply feeding yourself is a challenge, it’s hard to feel great about anything. Yet it happens. Every day at the Food Pantry we see a transformation. Someone walks in the door, despair personified. A short while later, handed a shopping cart and ushered into a pantry bursting with food to self-select, the despair lifts. Shoulders ease back. Spines straighten. Smiles emerge. The challenge to feed oneself becomes gratifying.

We’d like to take credit for such transformations (Whoo-hoo!) but we can’t. The congratulatory whoops belong to the clients themselves and to the wonderful community who make the gift of food so meaningful.

But our pantry recently completed a challenge of another sort: the annual Feinstein Challenge, which encourages hunger relief agencies to compete for a portion of Alan Feinstein’s million-dollar pot of money. This year the community responded with an outpouring of food and funds that was inspirational. Donors reached deep into their piggy-banks, checking accounts, and family foundations to make sure no one in this community must go hungry.

Of particular note this year were the efforts of Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School. Teachers, staff, students, and parents raised a whopping $2,940 and collected 924 items of food to boot. The success was due to a good-natured competition among advisory classes. Congratulations to the winning advisory classes, headed by Mr. Madel and Ms. Frick.

While Brooks took the prize for most raised, we’d also like to give a shout-out to all the local schools who participated, raising a total of over 11,000 items and dollars: Beye, Dominican CAB, Hatch, Holmes, Mann, Lincoln (Oak Park), St. Catherine/St. Lucy, St. Francis High School, Whittier, Willard.

Schools weren’t the only ones involved. Congregations, businesses, groups, and individuals all joined the effort to help feed our neighbors in need. On behalf of the board of directors, the staff and volunteers, and especially the clients of Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry, we offer our profound thanks to all of you for your support.


Michele Zurakowski

Executive director

J. Peter Clark

President of the board

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