At 3:30 p.m. on a recent blistering hot Thursday, a sea of more than 800 cars snaked their way through strategically formed lines on the east side of the CRSM parking lot. For the next two-and-a-half hours, the cars filled with families, waited for President Preston Kendall to welcome and wave them ahead — four, and sometimes eight cars at a time into two holding zones marked by orange cones. There, a pit crew of more than 50 volunteers wearing neon yellow vests, packed their trunks and back seats from pallets piled high with boxes of fresh vegetables, frozen turkey meatballs, milk, numerous food staples, light bulbs and other necessities.
No ID’s, no pre-registration required. Just first-come, first-serve. Any Waukegan-area friends and neighbors who need a little help during one of the most difficult times were welcome.
Since January of 2021, CRSM has partnered with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to help Lake County residents who’ve been especially hard-hit by COVID-19. The pandemic economic shutdown and continuing challenges have made hunger a harsh reality for families who lost jobs, found their hours cut and have to choose between paying rent, utilities, medical bills or putting meals on the table.
During the last eight months, the pop-up parking lot food bank, has served more than 10,000 families. The mobile food distribution will continue monthly through January 2022. About 70 volunteers (mostly students, their family members and some staff and community members) staffed the school year events and about 40 volunteers helped during the summer.
“This is such an important cause, and we’re so excited to see how many people we can help when we work together,” says Jim Dippold, CRSM Director of Campus Ministry. According to estimates from Feeding America, there are 36,400 Lake County residents living with food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic shined the light on basic necessities neighbors are struggling to obtain due to the economic impact brought on by the pandemic, adds Dippold.
The partnership between CRSM and the Northern Illinois Food Bank has “international roots,” and ties directly to Mexico, where many of the families living and served by the program hail from. It got its start a year ago when a soccer organization from Mexico, Alianza Contigo, contacted us to partner with them and the NIFB, says Dippold.
“I’ve been awed by the students and their commitment, their efforts, to continue coming out and serving the families in our community – in the frigid January weather, in the rain, in the heat of the summer,” says Dippold. “They always bring amazing energy and grit and represent our school in an incredibly positive way. This kind of work, especially through the hardships and struggles of the pandemic, is what we are about at CRSM.”
The next food distribution will be held on Thursday Sept. 9, 2021. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Jim Dippold at email@example.com