“With food, the need is right here right now. We are the boots on the ground,” Mike Hvala, CEO of Loaves and Fishes Community Services in Naperville, says.
Hvala wasn’t fazed by Gov. Pritzker’s mandate to extend Illinois’ Stay at Home order until the end of May, just like he did what he had to do back in March, when the organization wasted no time in changing its model to accommodate the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Having more clients while being able to use fewer volunteers is tough, but Hvala and his team have risen to the challenge.
“We anticipated the extension. Our new model will work through the end of May,” he said. “As things develop, we will see.”
The need has certainly risen since March, when the state’s lockdown began and all nonessential businesses were closed. On an average Thursday before the pandemic, the food pantry would expect to serve 150 families. On April 16 the number was 445, which meant more than 40,000 tons of food was distributed in just one day.
In addition to the operations in Naperville, Loaves and Fishes also has a satellite distribution center at the Compass Church in Bolingbrook for Will County residents. Last week, more than 900 families were served in Naperville and more than 100 in Bolingbrook.
Joni Wiltz, the agency’s Director of Marketing and Communications, is hopeful things will improve. “We are anticipating that we will see some fluctuation in our numbers as people have begun receiving their stimulus checks in the mail. That is a good thing,” she said.
Up until March, Loaves and Fishes operated their Naperville distribution center on High Grove Lane like a grocery store. Clients browsed the shelves with a shopping cart, choosing the items they needed. These included pretty much everything a normal store would have, from fresh fruits and vegetables to dairy items, bread and canned goods. READ THE FULL ARTICLE…
For more information on Loaves & Fishes Community Services visit their website at www.loaves-fishes.org.
This post was written by Hilary Decent and originally published May 1, 2020 in the Naperville Sun.