Christ Our Light Catholic Church (formerly St. Florian) Helps Feed Their Neighbors In Need in the Hegewisch Community
Approximately 90 families per month in the Hegewisch Community visit Christ Our Light Catholic Church in need of food assistance for their families. Christ Our Light Catholic Church is a combination of St. Columba, Mother of God and St. Florian with St. Florian the only parish to have a SVdP Conference. Joan Gibbons, SVdP Conference President, has been a part of the food pantry for around 10-15 years. Kathy has been volunteering for 25 years. Besides Joan, Kathy is the next longest volunteer with the food pantry. With Joan’s group of 15-20 volunteers (all seniors) they have their food pantry set-up and distribution down to a science. The food pantry has been in operation since 1992 and in November 2022 they celebrated their 30th Anniversary!
When the pantry first opened, they started with 5 ladies serving 12 families. In the late 90s/early 2000s they were serving as many as 200 families. Joan felt it was because many of the steel mills and industry closing. When their Friends in Need stop in, they are given a number, they register, a table with literature is set up. Then they begin getting their items in the gym, into the hallway, into a back room where there are several freezers/refrigerators. They receive enough meat for at least a week (or more). They also have tables filled with baked goods that are donated from Food Rescue, who partners with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Food Rescue sends trucks to Walmart, Target, Jewel, etc., and brings surplus baked goods. The majority of their donations come from the Greater Food Depository, Food Rescue, the donation drive held by the post office, Scouts, and they always accept donations from their neighbors.
With Easter around the corner, they plan on distributing a ham/turkey for the larger families and chicken for the smaller families or individuals.
The Christ Our Light Catholic Church delivers to six shut-ins who are either handicapped or have no means of transportation. These deliveries are made before the pantry opens.
Henry and Ken have been volunteering with the food pantry for several years. Henry began when his brother-in-law, Bob, who lived nearby, talked him into helping out. Henry’s brother-in-law has since passed, but he still makes the commute from New Lenox. As much as he says every November it’s time to stop and take it easy, he’s still year a couple of years later.
Ken has been with the pantry for several years now. As his parents were getting older, Ken and his siblings took care of them. He used to help at a Soup Kitchen in Hammond years ago so he is all too familiar with volunteering and helping others. He said that is what he enjoys the most is helping others. He started helping out at St. Florian when an ad in the paper caught his eye that they needed volunteers. Here he is now, seven years later.
On Wednesday, March 22, the SVdP every St. Florian Pantry Volunteer received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Office of the Governor Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. Each volunteer received a certificate for their countless hours of dedication and service to their community.
Needless to say, SVdP Chicago-ADC is very proud of all the hard work and effort that goes into the Christ Our Light Catholic Church food pantry. God bless you for all you have done and continue to do for our Friends in Need.