LEE — Neighbors In Christ Ecumenical may run a small food pantry but their serving of about $100,000 worth of food every year to impoverished families in DeKalb and Lee counties keeps earning them support.
Their food and clothing pantry has been recognized for consistently providing effective and needed service to rural communities in the southern part of DeKalb County and Lee County from the DeKalb County Community Foundation. On June 21, the foundation awarded $17,500 for the pantry to fix an aging roof that is awaiting renovations.
This isn’t the first time the food and clothing pantry has received support from the foundation. The two organizations have partnered on many projects in the past. The pantry has received grants to purchase freezers, install new windows and provide heating for their building, said Sandy Rueff, vice president of the food and clothing pantry.
Neighbors In Christ Ecumenical helps alleviate the lack of food resources in the rural areas of DeKalb and Lee counties, said Anita Zurbrugg, program director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation. Other food pantries in DeKalb and Sycamore are inaccessible to the people in the southern part of the county that are in need, she said.
“The board is very aware of the growing gap of food availability in the county,” Zurbrugg said.
Families can qualify to shop at the food and clothing pantry if they are in the pantry’s serving area and meet federal guidelines for poverty, Rueff said. The amount of food they can obtain is dependent on the number of people in their families. They’re allowed to come twice a month and usually take in $150 worth of food, she said.
“It’s a unique pantry, I don’t think there’s anything quite like it,” Rueff said.
The food and clothing pantry is able to receive support from organizations such as the Northern Illinois Food Bank, local churches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others. Canned goods, frozen meat, fresh produce and bread are some of the items the pantry offers, Rueff said.
When Neighbors In Christ Ecumenical applied for the grant to repair the roof, the DCCF challenged them to garner local contributions first, Zurbrugg said. The foundation’s board always wants to make sure organizations are able to make the most economical grant requests possible because the foundation receives two to three times more requests than what they have available for grants, she said.
“We always encourage leveraging and partnership whenever possible,” Zurbrugg said.
With the assistance of 15 local churches who are part of Neighbors In Christ Ecumenical, the pantry was able to raise about $13,500. Along with the grant from the foundation, the pantry was able to allocate about $31,000 for repairing the roof.
“We were delighted that we were able to convey that grant and in our opinion help narrow the food availably gap as much as possible,” Zurbrugg said.
The pantry has been running for more than 25 years, Rueff said. An old water tower place in Shabbona was the first home for the pantry until it moved to its current location in 1999. The location used to be the Lee Grade School and the pantry operates in the newest additions to the building, she said.
The pantry continues to be an important resource that supplements the needs of families in rural areas, Rueff said. Every weekend the pantry serves about 37 to 57 families, which is quite a bit for a small food pantry, she said.
“We saw a need for help and we never dreamed it would grow to where it is today,” Rueff said.
If you go
What: Neighbors In Christ Ecumenical Food and Clothing Pantry
When: 8:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Saturday
Where: 346 S. County Line Road, Lee