December 19, 2020 House Of Restoration Holiday Event

The following email came from Lucy Gomez, Co-founder – House of Restoration. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-19 House of Restoration 

Food For Friends partnered with House of Restoration for a Christmas Blue Bag Holiday Distribution on Saturday December 19, 2020.

Volunteers organize the 100 Blue Bags and frozen turkeys for the Holiday event at the House of Restoration

Food For Friends provided 100 frozen turkeys and the Blue Bags to the House of Restoration team, which then filled those blue bags with additional food items so the family can make a full holiday meal at home.

More about the event below, but first a little background on us and what we do. House of Restoration, founded in 2001, serves Elgin and the surrounding communities as an important resource to individuals and families experiencing hardship and loss. This includes the homeless community, which we have served by running an emergency winter shelter in the city of Elgin every year.

As the pandemic hit in early 2020, the House of Restoration Community Outreach team began planning in order to meet the high demand that we knew was going to come in from families in need. Throughout 2020, we worked with our strategic partners to secure food, load that food into our 53 ft. trailer, and distribute the food to surrounding communities. We estimate we fed over 10,000 families in 2020. In addition, we worked with community leaders as a resource, helping them provide additional food for for the needy in their community.

Back to our December 19, 2020 holiday serving event. We operated this event as a pickup event with a focus on providing a safe environment both for our volunteers and for those we were serving.

As guests arrived, they were provided a Food For Friends Blue Bag, which was filled with food items donated by House of Restoration. Each family also received a frozen turkey, which was donated by Food For Friends. Families with children also received some gifts for their children, provided through generous donations by our partners

Our volunteers remarked that while everyone was wearing masks, they were were able to see the smiles on their faces

House of Restoration wishes to thank Food For Friends, which always comes through to help make this event successful.

Be bless and a happy new years.

Lucy Gomez, Co-founder – House of Restoration

December 27, 2020 – Gifts of Food To Seniors in Englewood

The following email came from the Linda Murphy, who was the lead volunteer for this event. Food For Friends would like to thank Linda Murphy along with her family and friends who selfishly gave up their time to deliver these gifts of food. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-25 Englewood Senior Homes 

On December 27, 2020, a group of Food For Friends came together and delivered 70 turkeys and Blue Bags full of food to two senior homes in the Englewood community within Chicago. Greencastle of Englewood and Orchard Place. both located at 6344 S Peoria Street.

These two senior homes had both been scheduled to receive food from another charitable organization around Christmas, but that delivery was cancelled. That is when the call came to Food For Friends for assistance. This was a case of our partners and volunteers staying connected to organizations that are in need and then reaching out to us to see if we could find a way to help.

Our group of Food For Friends volunteers did not hesitate when the call came in. It took a few SUVs filled to the top with all the turkeys and Food For Friends Blue Bags, but our volunteers made the trip on Christmas Day. In all, this group of volunteers delivered 70 turkeys along with Blue Bags of food.

Our gifts of food were loaded into shopping carts at each location and then the carts were pushed them safely into their main social rooms. From there the the staff of each of the senior homes delivered the shopping carts directly to the rooms of the seniors.

With our mission for the day complete, our group of volunteers when home with warm hearts, knowing they had helped others experience the joy of Christmas.

Linda Murphy, Volunteer – Food For Friends

A Christmas Eve Delivery to The Maryville Academy

The following email came from the Linda Murphy, who was the lead volunteer for this event. Food For Friends would like to thank Linda Murphy along with her family and friends who selfishly gave up their time to deliver these gifts of food. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-24 Maryville Academy 

On Christmas Eve morning, December 24, 2020, a group of Food For Friends volunteers delivered 33 turkeys and Blue Bags to the school at the Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. The food was then distributed to families in need.

Food For Friends volunteers pose for a picture after delivering turkeys and Blue Bags to the school at the Maryville Academy on Christmas Eve morning.

Maryville (https://www.maryvilleacademy.org/) is a child care organization based in Des Plaines, IL that was founded in 1883. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of the dignity of children at every age. Maryville’s mission is to help children and families to reach their fullest potential by empowering intellectual, spiritual, moral and emotional growth.

Maryville’s range of programs includes residential care, mental health services, healthcare and family support services, as well as a variety of educational and youth development offerings. More than 4,000 children’s lives are made better, safer and more joyful every year because Maryville exists

Many families from the school are supported by charitable events that have been cancelled or closed due to the pandemic. Our gift of turkeys and Blue Bags were distributed to families in need just in time to provide a special Christmas meal to those who would not have otherwise been able to afford it.

Linda Murphy, Volunteer – Food For Friends

December 23, 2020 Morton Grove Area Interfaith Serving Event

The following email came from the Linda Murphy, who was the lead volunteer for this event. Food For Friends would like to thank her for organizing this event and coordinating all the volunteers and organizations. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-23 Morton Grove event 

In the weeks before Christmas, families on low incomes find themselves questioning whether to apply their limited budget to healthcare, food or presents for the children. These are the families we want to reach out to.

On December 23, 2020, Food for Friends served an Interfaith community in the Morton Grove area, reaching 100 families in need for food for the Holiday weekend.

On a dark and rainy night before Christmas Eve, Food For Friends volunteers passed out 100 turkeys and Blue Bags to needy families in the Morton Grove community

The event was held the Wednesday evening before Christmas Eve. It was dark, raining and windy but the photos show we more than persevered in our objective of distributing over 100 turkeys and Blue Bags of food.

Many Morton Grove area organizations stepped up for this community wide serving event, including St. Martha Catholic Church in Morton Grove along with St. Mary’s Knanaya, St. Lukes Christian Community, Morton Grove Community Church, and the Muslim Education Center, the Morton Grove Police and Fire Departments, and local schools as well.

All these organizations reached out to families in need in their communities with messages that Turkeys and Food for Friends Blue Bags of food would be provided via a drive by, contactless safe food distribution event.

100 Blue Bags filled with food are ready to be distributed to needy families.

The event was highly successful. Families drove by our location and we just loaded the turkey and Blue Bag into their trunk. There were a few families that walked up as well. All volunteers were wearing masks and social distancing was practiced for the safety of all.

As the event closed, volunteers began telling stories of those we had served. One of our volunteers is a teacher at a local school. She had contacted her students in her class and was delighted when the family showed up to receive the turkey and the Blue Bag.. Another mom told us that prior to receiving the notification of this serving event, she had no idea how she was going to feed her family for Xmas day as she had spent her money on gifts for her children.

All volunteers agreed that the feeling one gets from serving these people is priceless. Knowing we had a small part providing a joyous Christmas meals to these families who might have otherwise gone hungry is what our serving events are all about.

Linda Murphy, Volunteer – Food For Friends

Annual Elgin Christmas Community Dinner

On December 22, 2020, Together We’re Elgin found a way to host their annual Christmas Dinner in their community. It was challenging, but they did it! The article below was sent in by Jeff Turner, Founder of Together We’re Elgin. Food For Friends was honored to partner on this event. For more pictures from this event, see our album 2020-12-22 Elgin Community Christmas Dinner 

A wonderful evening was had by all.  Sometimes in life, a blessing comes to you right when it really needs to. 

That is what happened this holiday.  Under normal circumstances this holiday season, myself and my team with Together We’re Elgin would be hosting our annual Christmas Community Dinner at the Hemmen’s Cultural Center in Elgin.  Food would be provided by Jewel food stores and the generosity of their customers in the form of dinner kits with ham and all of the fixins.  Food for friends would supplement that with any other items we would need as well as an army of volunteers. 

Assembling the carryout meal containers on Christmas Eve

This year we were unable to have our dinner as we know it because of Covid 19 and restrictions that were put in place.  It was very disheartening as there is such a need in our community.  We feed the homeless, families, individuals and whomever wants to come to our dinners.  Even though we couldn’t do the dinner, we knew we had to do something.

We realized that we needed to pivot and still help some people this holiday season.  As a committee we decided to use some of the meals that were coming from Jewel  to feed our homeless in Elgin on Christmas night, and the rest of the meals would be distributed by Karen Vargas and my wife, Megan Turner to local families in the U-46 school district.  I didn’t realize that over 750 students throughout the district have been identified as homeless.  The need is so great. 

When we realized how huge that need was, a blessing came.  Dan Herzog and the board from Food For Friends decided they wanted to help us yet again, as they have over the past 12 years.  Dan called me and asked if they could sponsor the dinner on Christmas night for the homeless by having it catered, thus freeing up the other boxes of food we had from Jewel, and going to families in need.  By doing this, we not only fed 100 of those on the streets a hot meal, but we also not helped well over 100 MORE people in need throughout the district U-46.  What a blessing.  Lee N Eddies catered a wonderful meal of turkey and dressing roll ups with gravy, sweet potatoes, corn and red peppers, and ham with pineapple glaze.  In addition, they brought bottled water and individually wrapped cookies.  The food was fantastic!

The team gathered on Christmas Eve at the Vineyard Church in Elgin to distribute

On the 22nd, we distributed the boxed meals to families around Elgin, Bartlett, Streamwood, Carpentersville, and Hoffman Estates.  On Christmas Eve, Danny from Lee N Eddies delivered the dinner to me and then our team met up at the Vineyard Church in Elgin on Christmas and warmed all of the food.  35 meals went to another church in the area for their homeless folks and we served over 60 meals at the Vineyard.  The great thing was that the City of Elgin gave approval for seating of up to 25 people in the two churches.  Those people who live outside, could come in for a couple hours and warm up and enjoy a wonderful catered dinner.  The appreciation was overwhelming.

A special thanks to my wife Megan, Karen Vargas, Michael Copeland, and Bob Schuman for all of their help through this holiday dinner and delivering all of the boxed meals to families in need.  Big thanks to Eric Rubin for building the relationship with Jewel food stores and securing all of this food for distribution.  A huge thank you to Food for Friends as well for this incredible  blessing.  And thank you to Lee N Eddies for the wonderful catered dinner.

God Bless.

Jeff Turner – Founder of Together We’re Elgin

2020: Reflections of Connections and Hope

When we reflect back on the events of this year, the term “hindsight is 2020” seems appropriate.   COVID 19 spread rapidly early in the year and changed so much in this world and our lives. 

Dan Herzog, President – Food For Friends

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the amazing Food For Friends volunteers and benefactors who stepped up their giving and serving despite this new crisis. Throughout the entire year and continuing through this holiday season, you have leaned in, connecting and providing hope to people in need all over our city and suburbs. Hundreds of volunteers and partners have joined Food For Friends and/or donated resources of money during this years uncertain times.

In addition, we have had new volunteers, donors, and partners reach out to us and commit to support the mission of Food For Friends. Plain and simple, they all have been moved by the events of 2020 and they believe in our vision to help our neighbors and their children.

Because of your generosity and rising up to the needs, we have served a record number of events, 58 in 2020, and have served over 30,000 meals!  Although we had a handful of cancelled events due to COVID, we evaluated and adjusted all events moving forward to make them safe and effective (masks, social distancing, wipes, hand sanitizers, etc.) for the volunteers and guests. It has been amazing to see what our entire team has been able to accomplish.

  • Carryout Meals:   We held 16 events where we distributed carryout containers of prepared meals. We estimate the number of people served at well over 2000.
  • Mobile Food Pantry Events: We held 10 food truck events this year, distributing thousands of meals to over 2500 families.
  • Blue Bag Events:   30 events were conducted with multiple partners throughout the year. We distributed more than 2,000 turkeys and Blue Bags that each contained enough side dishes for a meal. These events served thousands of meals.
  • Grocery Distribution to Fellowship Housing Families: We held 8 events and distributed boxes/bags of groceries to approximately 10-15 single moms and their families at each event.

Besides the serving events, we have been blessed with an increase in generous donations this fall. In addition to our annual golf event in September (which raises the greatest portion of our donation resources), we also held our first GIVING TUESDAY fundraiser campaign. Just this past month, a local Fitness Club was kind enough to hold a virtual workout with all proceeds going to Food For Friends.

So as we end 2020, Food For Friends is getting stronger. We thank you for all that you have done. Looking forward to 2021, the impact of the pandemic is also increasing. So many of our friends and neighbors have fallen on hard times from loss of jobs, illness from COVID19, some freedoms, and sadly, some have even lost family members.  The needs and requests for food and help continue to be brought to Food For Friends from many sources.

Looking to the future, as we close 2020 and ring in the New Year, our board of directors are more excited and energized than ever before.  We know that with great resources comes great responsibilities. With that in mind, our commitment to our mission of Connect and Give Hope will continue right away in January to strive to meet the challenges and needs of the hungry. So, please stay tuned in to our Events page on our website. As the new year kicks off we will be posting our 2021 list of upcoming serving events. We hope to build upon what we did in 2020 and then some! If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us.

In closing, please know that we are so grateful to you for the generosity and gifts you provide us. With your continued volunteerism, support, and donations, we know we can accomplish great things together. Let’s continue to do God’s work and serve our neighbors.

Blessings to you and family,

Dan Herzog, President – Food For Friends

Music Box Foundation Event – December 19, 2020

The following email came to us from Jazmin Aaron, Marketing Manager – Music Box Foundation.

On Saturday, December 19, 2020 Food for Friends and the Music Box Foundation partnered for a safe and successful  food and toy distribution to the South Side Chicago neighborhood. 

The Music Box Foundation is stationed in an area where little to no music education programs are currently easily accessible. In this areas, we have cultivated our own secure community built as a healthy space for students to practice creative freedom and learn the joy of music. Meeting our students at their individual level and advancing alongside them in their growth is a vital part of our values.

Many of our students come from families with lower incomes and thus the lack a proper budget for for food. During the holiday season, we wanted to provide a meal to our our students and their families as way to celebrate the gift of giving. So, in partnership with Food For Friends we were able to deliver a serving event to provide a Christmas Dinner on December 19th 2020.

In past years, we were able to do this via a sit down meal. With the current pandemic, we improvised to an event that practiced social distancing and contactless distribution of food.

In the end, we were successful in distributing 200 packaged meals. The menu consisted of chicken, green beans, sweet potatoes, mostaccioli, corn bread, a brownie, and water.  As our students and families picked up their meals, they all expressed thanks for their gifts of food. In addition to the packaged meals, we were able to secure and distribute fresh vegetables to those that wanted them. 

And we had a special surprise for the children. Music Box worked with other donors to secured toys, which were wrapped up in bright holiday colors.

We would like to thank all of our amazing Food For Friends and Music Box Foundation volunteers and to all the individuals that donated to our annual toy drive. We look forward to returning for our next community dinner in the new year.

Sincerely,

Jazmin Aaron, Marketing Manager – Music Box Foundation  

Richard Edwards Elementary School – December 19, 2020

The following email came to us from Karen Vargas, a long-time volunteer with Food For Friends. We would like to thank Karen for all her volunteer hours she has given for Food For Friends serving events. We would also like to thank Sesajal and Columbus Vegetable Oils who helped sponsor this event. And thanks also to the Chicago Rugby Club for assembling all the Blue Bags for this event. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-19 Richard Edwards Elementary School 

On Saturday, December 19th, Food For Friends distributed Blue Bags and a turkey to the families of Richard Edwards Elementary. Richard Edwards Elementary is located at 4815 S. Karlov Ave.
in the Archer Heights neighborhood in Chicago.

We had the opportunity to distribute holiday Blue Bags to 35 families identified by teachers and staff at Richard Edwards Elementary as families who were in significant need of assistance at this time.

Volunteers from Food For Friends helped distribute 35 turkeys and Blue Bags to families in need in Archer Heights, Chicago.

With the help of the school’s staff, we set up a few tables in front of the school, put on our masks, and waited for families to arrive. During our conversations with the school’s staff members they all shared that the turkeys and Blue Bags were a blessing for the families of their students. 

As the event progressed, most families walked to the school to pick up our gift to them. As they took possession of their Blue Bag and turkey, they each shared their gratitude for Food For Friends and for the staff and volunteers who gave their time for this event.

A few families did drive their car to the event. One family displayed a Merry Christmas poster on their car windshield and shared how grateful they were to receive food in these difficult times. 

Special thanks to Mr. Raul Bermejo, the school principal, who picked up turkeys, the lovely staff that volunteered their time to see and serve their families, and The Chicago Rugby Club that assembled the blue bags a week prior to our event. 

What a lovely event! Merry Christmas to all!

Blessings,

Karen Vargas, Volunteer – Food For Friends

Fellowship Housing Holiday Blue Bags – December 19, 2020

The following email came from Christina Chacon, Board Member – Food For Friends. For more pictures from this event, go to our album on Facebook titled 2020-12-19 Fellowship Housing Holiday Blue Bags 

On Saturday, Dec 19, Food for Friends distributed holiday Blue Bags to the Fellowship Housing families.

In the past years, we have partnered with Fellowship Housing to host a Christmas party for the families. Due to the pandemic we had to improvise in order to provide a safe event for all. Thus, we switched the event to a contactless drive through event and distributed holiday Blue Bags filled with food items instead.

Fellowship Housing moms received a Blue Bags were filled with numerous food items as well as a frozen Turkey

Prior to the event, all the food items were purchased. These items were then brought to the site and we assembled the Blue Bags on site. The Blue Bags were filled with canned goods, Mac n cheese, boxed mashed potatoes, granola bars, fruit cups, hot chocolate and corn bread mix.

The weather cooperated nicely for the drive thru distribution. As the moms approached the parking lots they were instructed to have a name tag on the dashboard and windows rolled up to minimize the contact. Once we identified the mom, we had her pop open her trunk. We then loaded a Turkey and blue bag filled with food into her trunk. That is how contactless serving works!

Additionally some of the moms were picking up Christmas gifts coordinated by Fellowship Housing staff.

The recipients were happy and so grateful. We got to see so many smiling faces through the car windows. And we even received a couple of hugs in sign language! It was obvious that we were making an impact in the lives of these families.

In summary, it was such a great event.

A special thank you to Enza for her involvement especially for picking up and delivering the frozen turkeys.

Christina Chacon, Board Member – Food For Friends

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Fellowship Housing is an independent, non-profit organization that provides safe and affordable housing and financial training to single moms and their children. The organization empowers single moms to transition from financial crisis to long-term stability. https://www.fhcmoms.org/

Ewing Annex Hotel – December 19, 2020

The following email came from Barbara Gaona, a long-time volunteer with Food For Friends. We would like to thank Barbara for volunteering her time and for sending in this article

Food For Friends provided a holiday meal to the men at the Ewing Annex Hotel in Chicago. The Annex is the last standing single occupancy housing for men in transition in Chicago.

It was a feel-good serving, as usual, today December 19, 2020. I enjoyed the event so much, this is one of my favorite places to serve.

The Ewing Annex Hotel is at 426 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60605

We decided to distribute the meal inside as it was too cold outside. Mike Bush (of Ewing Annex Hotel) set up a couple of tables inside in a room where the meal was distributed. We developed a plan where we would only have 5-10 come in to get their meal at a time.

The holiday meal was catered by Lee ‘n Eddies and delivered by owner, Dan Veles. A few men from the hotel helped Dan Veles bring the boxed lunches and bottled water to the serving room. Once the food was set up and we were ready to distribute the meals, a resident lifted us in prayer. Thanks to Dan, who stayed for the entire event to assist with the serve. Mike also was a big help by distributing the water bottles and making sure everyone had a mask.

The men had a choice of delicious sliced Turkey or Spiral Ham which included fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn this completed the meals. The men also received a box that had a roll, butter, napkin, utensils and cookie. They really enjoyed the meals and were very appreciative!! As the men picked up the food there was alot of conversation, laughter, and holiday good wishes. They then took their food back to their rooms to eat.

Thanks once again to our partner, Lee N Eddies Catering, for providing the food for this event.   

We look forward to returning soon for our next event at the Annex!

Barbara Gaona, FFF Volunteer

Connect and Give Hope