Carnival Grocery on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. | Alex Rogals

One club at Oak Park and River Forest High School has set out to help feed individuals and families in need during the holiday season. Led by OPRF’s multicultural leadership club, students have launched a holiday food drive that will benefit a community fridge and pantry located just outside of Carnival Grocery, 824 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park.

The drive officially kicked off Nov. 3 and runs until Dec. 14 and is open to all OPRF faculty, staff and students. On the list of sought after donations are pantry essentials, including canned and boxed goods, as well as table sauces. Because the dry items are being stored at the school’s student activities center before the drop-off, perishable, refrigerated or frozen food will not be taken, said Kiko Achurra and Anthony Clark, a pair of OPRF teachers who have teamed up to launch the effort.

Achurra, who co-leads the multicultural club with fellow teacher, Lee Williams, said the monthlong holiday food drive is the club’s first and hopes it will become a tradition. Achurra said the drive also embodies the club’s mission to serve and partnering with Clark seemed perfect. Outside of school, Clark is an activist and founder of the nonprofit, Suburban Unity Alliance, which has played a role in establishing a handful of community fridges in Oak Park and nearby suburban Maywood.

For Achurra and Clark, the drive is about spreading awareness on food insecurity and a message on the true meaning of community. For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only exacerbated hardships for families locally but pushed people into isolation, and this food drive is an example of staff and students “being together and being here,” Achurra said.

While the club-sponsored food drive is only open to the OPRF community, Clark said there are still plenty of ways local residents can pitch in. They can s drop off donations to the community fridges in Oak Park and Maywood, which provide people access to food and personal items 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also raise money to buy items or sign up to clean or manage the fridge, Clark said. A complete list of donation guidelines, including food and toiletries, can be found at www.opfridge.com.

“Everyone has a strength,” Clark said. “Everyone has an ability to make a difference.”

“The point is to get involved,” he said. “Sitting back when you  know issues exist essentially means you’re complicit. If you truly want to address issues, get involved in whatever capacity you can, because even a reshare, even a post just telling people about the fridge truly makes a difference.”

Here’s how to donate

With the help of several community partners and leaders, Clark’s Suburban Unity Alliance has opened three community fridges in Oak Park and Maywood. The two in Oak Park are located right outside Carnival Grocery, 824 S. Oak Park Ave., and Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, 405 S. Euclid. Ave. The community fridge in Maywood is in front of the Hampton House, 804 S. 17th Ave. For those interested in monetary donations, head online and visit paypal.me/opunityfridges, and for a complete list of donation guidelines, visit www.opfridge.com.

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