History of Food For Friends
Food For Friends was founded in 1994 as a volunteer-initiated and volunteer-led Christian organization and remains this way today. At the very core of the Food For Friends organization is one common heartbeat to help the poor who are hungry in the Chicago area. The roots of our mission statement were planted with the first Thanksgiving meal we helped serve in downtown Chicago in 1994.
It Started at Thanksgiving
Daniel Herzog is the President and founding member of Food For Friends. Herzog was inspired by a message he heard at his church in 1994. The message was about “getting off the bench and getting in the game” and serving others in some way. Shortly after, in the fall of 1994, he was asked if his company could furnish bread for an inaugural Thanksgiving homeless dinner organized as a service project by the students of Harold Washington College. Herzog answered the challenge with more than a donation. He helped organize, set up and serve about 150 homeless street people at the Harold Washington College. The donation of clothing, shoes, and cares packages that could be given to the homeless were included in the serving event.
The event was such a success that there was great desire to grow it the next year. Inspired by the work of the Circle K Club (Kiwanis) collegians at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Professor Ted Dunaj and Herzog partnered together and planned a larger meal for the next year. Herzog contacted several food companies and suppliers to the food industry and the idea took off. 1995 had more food and volunteers for the Thanksgiving homeless dinner. People off the street had a place to go and get a warm turkey meal with all the trimmings served by volunteers whose hearts were being filled up and changed by this act of serving the homeless. Over time this event rapidly grew in number where, in 2010 FFF served, over 1200 meals were served to homeless men, women and children at five locations as a Thanksgiving tradition. The largest meal is served at Pacific Garden Mission Chicago.
A Charity is Born
As a new charity organization we established a Board of Directors, developed bylaws and core values. Our values of Commitment, Compassion, Connection and Community continue to guide us to new serving opportunities and fund raising ideas. Ideas began to flow about fundraising and how we could better serve our community and in return give the volunteers a fulfilling experience. What we could not figure out, God provided through new partners and friends we met. Coincidence? I think not!
The ideas we shared as a new charity helped us find new partners to serve and provide hands on opportunities to work with the poor, including the Kelzer homeless shelter started by Sister Kelzer in Chicago, the Wayside Cross Homeless shelter in Elgin. Suddenly we were more than a once a year Thanksgiving Dinner. We now serve Easter and Thanksgiving dinners in Elgin and are helping with two local Food Pantries there. In Chicago, we have provided people with opportunities to serve on a Saturday work plunges by helping to rehab the Kelzer homeless shelter. Food For Friends was more than just feeding people; we were learning how to feed the hearts and souls of all the volunteers.
Today with your support we have grown to five Thanksgiving dinners in Chicago and the suburbs. We also give away hundreds of complete turkey meals to under resourced families at three locations in the city and two in the suburbs.
We also serve single moms and their families on shopping trips. We are able to sponsor a family for a three month period of time taking them shopping and providing a budgeted dollar amount for each family to provide food and assistance. This has been a very rewarding way for Food For Friends to provide hands on opportunities for volunteers to get involved with serving.
Future and Vision of Food For Friends
Our vision statement shares the dream of the day when those that must choose between food, clothing or shelter no longer go hungry. The board of directors feels compelled to lead the cause for justice and mercy to help the poor who are hungry in Chicagoland. We know with your help we can help make change a reality, one life at a time. Thank you for your commitment to help those who have less than we do. With God’s guidance we can truly make a difference.