The Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry has served local residents in need for 37 years.
Located inside Morgan Park United Methodist Church, 11030 S. Longwood Dr., the pantry is now serving an even greater purpose—and helping more people—during the COVID-19 crisis, and local residents are making sure its shelves stay well stocked.
Cars arrived at the parking lot to drop off food and monetary donations on April 29, the first of two contact-free drop-off events to take place in recent weeks.
The next was scheduled for May 6.
“The community has truly stepped up for us,” said Karen Overstreet, the food pantry’s executive director. “The business, the associations, [the Beverly Area Planning Association], all of the churches—everybody has truly supported us. And we are truly humbled and overwhelmed and in awe because we have never seen anything like this.”
The pantry, which opened in 1983, typically serves about 600 people per month from the 60643 and 60655 ZIP codes.
During the current dire circumstances, however, it has served about 1,500 people in both March and April. People are also traveling from the West Side, Overstreet said, due to a lack of pantries in that area.
The pantry in Morgan Park, Overstreet said, is need of dry goods, baby diapers and baby wipes, and packaged meat, as there is a citywide shortage of meat. No canned goods are needed, as the pantry is “flooded” with those items.
Monetary donations are also encouraged.
On April 29, cars lined up in the parking lot, where volunteers unpacked trunks full of donations, which were taken inside, where other volunteers stocked the pantry’s shelves.
Overstreet said such a drop-off system has been in place since March 17, when businesses statewide were required to scale back services. She has reduced her staff to a “skeleton crew” of about eight people to allow for social distancing, and the pantry is still running smoothly.
“We have been able to maintain because foundations, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and everybody have kicked in to high gear,” she said. “So, we have been able to manage it.”
Among the volunteers on April 29 was 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea. He said the need for the pantry’s food is “magnified” during the pandemic.
“We’ve seen community pantries to the east and the south of us that have closed their doors during the crisis, so the demand has increased. … They’re coming from greater distances,” O’Shea said. “The fact that our community is stepping up to support them is great to see. It’s heartwarming.”
Monetary donations were received from businesses, including the McDonald’s at 1637 W. 95th St., in Beverly. Owner/operator Randy Conn decided to donate to the pantry the $1,000 his store received from the GoFundMe account that O’Shea is running to help local businesses provide meals for first responders and healthcare workers.
McDonald’s locations nationwide provided free meals for first responders through May 5, and Conn, who has managed his McDonald’s location for over a year, said that because O’Shea has helped him, the donation was “the least we could do.”
“He’s just been a tremendous support for us in the ward,” Conn said. “He’s very accessible. We appreciate that.”
Beverly residents Carol Moriarty and Lisa O’Brien teamed up to host a collection drive seeking money and food from neighbors. They provided about $800, along with $400 worth of pantry items.
The longtime friends distributed fliers asking neighbors near 105th Street and Bell and Oakley avenues to drop off donations to the front porch of the organizers’ homes.
Moriarty said her “dream” is for other neighborhood blocks to take up similar efforts, with one person on each block organizing a collection.
“It’s so easy to drop it off. There’s nothing to it,” Moriarty said. “I wish I could do more.”
She invited people interested in hosting a collection on their block to call her at (773) 213-2432.
The pantry continues to be open Tuesdays and Fridays, 1-3 p.m.
Overstreet said all support is appreciated.
“We don’t turn any food away,” Overstreet said, “because we can use it all.”
For information about the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, call (773) 239-3013.