By Richard S. Gubbe
The Christian Union Pantry extends a helping hand to those in dire need of support to feed themselves and their families but is in need of assistance from the community to sustain its mission.
Located at Kilburn Avenue and Auburn Street on the city’s west side, Christian Union Pantry is one of the ministries of Christian Union Full Gospel Church Ministries. The Pantry has been in existence for more than 16 years in Rockford, serving those in need with dignity and respect. The pantry operates through acts of compassion and service, providing sustenance to all social, religious, gender and racial backgrounds. Even though the church is undergoing needed repairs due to storm damages, the pantry’s mission continues.
Over the years, an increase in the number of individuals seeking assistance continues to escalate, reaching as many as 360 families per month in the 61101, 61102 and 61103 zip codes. In addition to providing food, clothing and household items when available, the pantry also offers hope and friendship to those in need.
“Our mission continues to provide the much-needed help to our neighborhoods despite our ongoing financial challenges,” said the Rev. Leonard James, the Bishop of Christian Union Church. “We have dedicated volunteers but lack the funds for new equipment and the increasing need for purchasing food to feed the needy.”
The pantry is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon, except when Thursday falls on a legal holiday. Clients may visit once per month, obtaining food for as many as 12 nutritious meals that will best meet their families need.
“Our main goal is we are trying to develop a strong community and fulfill our spiritual mission,” James told TRRT. “That was the key element that Jesus always preached, to take care of the hungry. If we don’t do that, we are not fulfilling our mission.”
James added that the need for food assistance is great due to high unemployment, under employment and poverty. He said many of the clientele are single parents struggling to provide for their family, along with seniors who cannot afford to purchase food and medication. The population has been classified as a “food desert” in Winnebago County with an estimated 46,000 people living in poverty.
The pantry is supported by the church through its financial donors, food pantry outlets and working volunteers. The pantry is affiliated with the Greater Rockford Pantry Coalition. Church members also participate in the Crop Walk yearly and volunteer in the Postal Drive during the month of May by sorting food to be distributed to local pantries.
Currently, the pantry is encountering challenges that prevent increasing the amount of food distributed. The immediate goal is to purchase up to 20 percent more food and add additional equipment to accommodate the growing client base.
The pantry is in need of:
- Equipment to properly and safely handle food.
- A freezer for storage space for frozen food.
- New tables for food distribution.
- A computer system to aid in tracking clients, family size, children in the home, the elderly and the amount of food stored.
- A 3-utility cart with 500-pound capacity.
- Two flatbed carts.
- Two hand trucks.
- Five round banquet tables.
- Two wire shelving racks with 5 shelves.
To help with cash or in-kind donations, call the Rev. James at 815 558-1503 or send donations to Christian Union Pantry, 1705 N. Kilburn Ave., Rockford, IL 61101.