The congregation over at Faith United Lutheran Church in Brookfield is pretty small at about 80 members.
But that isn’t stopping the congregation from opening the village’s second food pantry, which will be located in the basement of the church at 3801 Madison Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 19.
“We’re a very small congregation, but we don’t like it when people say we can’t do that kind of thing,” said John Dumas, the chairman of the church’s food pantry committee. “The cornerstone of our congregation is service to the public. We felt it was time for us to make a difference.”
About two-thirds of the church basement will be devoted to the Share Food, Share Love Food Pantry, which is being run in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Volunteers from the church are picking up their first orders from the depository on Dec. 16 and the pantry will be open for its first day at 10 a.m. on Dec. 19.
Dumas said about 30 people already are actively volunteering for the food pantry. The goal is to get 50-60 volunteers.
“Everyone understands that this is our calling,” Dumas said. “I don’t think there’s anyone [in the congregation] who doesn’t know they’re going to help.”
The plan, for now, is for the pantry to be open on Saturday mornings between 10 a.m. and noon and on Tuesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m.
“We don’t really know what to expect at this point,” said Dumas of the pantry’s opening day this weekend.
According to a press release issued by the church last weekend, “the pantry will serve all residents of the village of Brookfield who are in need of food assistance.”
The pantry will operate on a “client choice” model, meaning clients will be allowed to select items that best fit their tastes and needs, avoiding items they won’t use.
Unlike the food pantry on 47th Street, which has been operated for decades by St. Barbara Parish, the Faith United Lutheran pantry doesn’t yet have its own client list.
Asked why the church decided to open a food pantry when there is already one in town, Dumas said that after doing the research and asking a lot of questions, it was a no-brainer.
“By and large, individual food pantries can only give about 25 percent of the food people need,” said Dumas, a lifelong member of the congregation. “No one place can really cover what people need.
“This was the overwhelming need.”
And in contrast to the St. Barbara Food Pantry, which depends exclusively on donations that can ebb and flow, the Faith Lutheran Food Pantry will be restocked regularly with items from the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
“There’s a constant pipeline of food we get access to,” Dumas said. “We’ll be supplied with food all the time.”
Among the items the food pantry will stock are meats, bread, dairy, fresh produce and, of course, non-perishable goods. Dumas said the pantry will also accept donations of food and money to purchase food from the depository.
The church approached the Greater Chicago Food Depository about nine months ago about the partnership after working with a sister church in Elgin, which referred the organization to Faith Lutheran.
Food pantry committee members attended classes, and the food pantry space had to meet the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s standards for refrigeration, pest control and security.
After waiting months for the OK, Dumas got word late last week that everything was set for a Dec. 19 start.
In January, Dumas said the church will hold a ceremony dedicating the food pantry to Cathy Colgrass Edwards, the former Brookfield village clerk and trustee, who assisted the church in laying the groundwork for the pantry.
“She helped us immensely,” Dumas said. “We probably would not have gotten anything going without Cathy’s help.”
A date and time for the ceremony has not yet been set. More information about the food pantry can be found on their website.