Update 2013: Volunteering at a Food Pantry

Still been regularly serving at the Food Pantry/Care Center since my last post. My actions have continued to indirectly affected the lives of hundreds of families. Meeting new volunteer members, chatting it up with fellow team members. Seeing different food products and brands. I’ve  also been learning about the complexities of  diapers, training pants, and various feminine care products. As one of the people responsible if we had stock/usable inventory for that particular service day.   The biggest thing was dealing with changes in preparation for “The Move” new procedures and floorplans and serving times.


The facility at Hoffman Estates is now closed Since Memorial Day Weekend  and  the New Facility will  open early this June. Located on the main Campus of The Willow Creek Community Church.


67 E. Algonquin Road
South Barrington, IL 60010
(224) 512-2600


With this new/larger facility we will be able to help even more families all around.


Update June 2012: Volunteering at the Willow Creek Care Center

Fellow Willow Creek volunteers and their families. Chatting and listening to the band.

Willow Creek held an event at the Church parking lot yesterday. As a “Thank You” event for the volunteers, general announcements and a (large) group photo session.

Serving teams from the various days gathered together at the tables or stood around and chatted before the speakers took to the stage.They announced the launch of a new website for the Care Center. There was a live band on stage, and we ate a Chick-fil-A meal. A (tasty) Regular Chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A dipping sauce, a bag of classic Lays potato chips and a very yummy cookie.

My Willow Creek Care Center volunteer t-shirt & letter group reminder

The above is a picture of the Volunteer T-shirt  I received during the event along with the letter formation note for the photo.  The event ended with some dancing and  the team leaders getting recognition onstage. I had a fine time there.

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Update from my time at the Food Pantry (3-1-2012)

It’s been a while since I posted something about my experiences at the Willow Creek Care Center/Food Pantry. Things are still going well, helping families, seeing random food products. These past 2 Sundays, I’ve been helping out more in the bread room, keeping shelves stocked, locating more items, pushing bread carts and the like. I’ve been given more important responsibilities. I also get the honor of turning on all the lights in the public areas of the care Center, while my supervisors open doors,  and greet waiting guests.

A donation that was left outside the doors of the FP

The above donation was full of oatmeal, grapes, yogurt and apple slices.

A donation that I sorted through. Crackers and cookies.

The two boxes seen above above as full of crakers, Snack well cookies.

Lucky for us, it’s usually still quite chilly outside, so that helps to preserve the freshness of these donated goods, I don’t know how some of these items would hold up during the Spring and Summer seasons.

The “higher-ups” have made an effort to visit the Sunday team more often than before.

Some  of my team members have shown me a great deal of kindness and generosity on multiple occasions. I continue to learn a lot, but there’s still so much that I need to know about in the different sections to be more effective. Communicating with ESL (English as a Second Language)  volunteers is something I still need to improve

Volunteering at the Food Pantry: Turkey time 2011

In addition to the usual items that clients get for their monthly visits, Turkeys and a box of side dishes are also included. This will allow the families to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Sunday team also broke its previous record of most people served, yesterday. The old record was 184, the new record is 208.

The boxes of sides were packed by the Willow Creek community.


Turkey and Sides, Thanksgiving boxes

Boxes, full of Thanksgiving meal fixings

Unfortunately my low quality camera phone can’t really capture the detail of the designs and well wishes on the boxes all that well. There were 4 pallets of these boxes. I found it to be quite a sight to see.

I was quite busy myself, sorting through donated goods, operating the (cardboard) compactor. Helping fellow volunteers locate goods, and fill special requests/needs. Since this was my first time serving during the Thanksgiving season, I can only imagine how much busier things could get.

Changes and retraining

It’s been quite a while since my last post about the Willow Creek Food Pantry. Things are going well there. Weekends are actually getting busier since my previous entry. Sunday team serves 100+ families regularly, and the team leader let us know (from his experience) that it will only get busier.

There’s always  something a little different going on with this Food pantry, a slight change in the placement of goods in the warehouse, what bags we use, to what goes into the bags. We get new volunteers while others take a little break.

One of the new things I’ve learned while here, is how to confidently load and operate a Compactor. It’s used to flatten large amounts of reusable  cardboard, which gets recycled. My ability to process empty cardboard material (boxes and trays the food stuff is shipped in)  has improved quite a bit. I continually assist in training new volunteers. I’ve even taken steps to recycle more stuff while at home.


Next week all volunteers will be going through a retraining session. Since I primarily deal with the Food part of the center perhaps I will be able to learn more about the other areas, and processes that I have had less exposure to. Not too sure.   I’ve never met any of the weekday volunteers, so  perhaps I will get that chance at this event.



Food Pantry term: Gleaner

So I learned about this term recently while at the Food Pantry.

A Gleaner is an individual who  picks up goods that are still edible but for one reason or another is not something the company or grocer can sell on the shelves.  Instead of it being thrown into garbage, the goods are loaded onto a truck and donated to the food pantry.

The reasons they may be unusable to the store:
*Mislabeled – I’ve seen an entire pallet of canned goods marked “Spaghetti sauce, mislabeled as tomato sauce”
* Newer Stock – We get some goods because the store gets a restock of newer goods

My experience as a volunteer at the Willow Creek Food Pantry

For the past several weekends, I have been  doing volunteer activities at a  food pantry/care center. What I do there is mainly packing, marking and moving food bags (in the back of a warehouse), for the families that come through the the doors.

Willow Creek Food Pantry & Care Center
2080 Stonington Ave.
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Willow Creek Care Center exterior

This is what gets packed into large paper bags

  • Cereal
  • Beans (Canned of bagged)
  • Rice
  • Tomato/ Spaghetti sauce
  • Protein  ( canned tuna)
  • Oatmeal or Grits
  • Vegetables
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pasta
  • Jelly
  • Fruit (canned)
  • Boxes of tissues
  • Rolls of toilet Paper
  • Pouches of mashed potato
  •  Specials ( coffee, crackers, mints and other things)
On a few occasions I’ve seen the team be accommodating to clients who have allergies, and other special needs.
Recently, aside from packing the bags
There is also a Bread room here. I find it Interesting to be in the Bread room of the pantry because a good variety of baked items to work with…
  • White Bread
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Whole Wheat (w/honey)
  • Raisin bread
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Baguettes (French bread)
  • Muffins
  • Bagels
  • Burger and Hot Dog buns
The volunteer(s) that get to work this room have a little more flexibility in choosing what goods go into the bag. The only two guidelines I was ever given while in here were, we try to give the clients  as much variety as possible. All the thile staying within a quantity limit.
 There is a (frozen) meat station to work at. I’ve seen chicken, ground beef, Roasts, Ribs Burger meat patties, and sausages. There is also a produce station, where you handle fresh fruits  and Vegetables. Working either of these stations means that you will venture into the walk-in refrigerator and walk-in freezer from time to time to get items for the bags. Either would be a nice station to work at when it’s hot outside, haha.
Recently, I’ve been handling the station I like to call “Box breakdown”.
This is a station for those who like to flatten empty boxes and cardboard containers of different kinds. Here will use your hands and/or feet to flatten out items, load them into a large bin that gets moved into the next room, to be compacted. This station is for those with lots of energy because you will get a lot of items to work on in a single shift. Knowing how to handle a box cutter will help things go faster as well. I also like to do item restocking for the bag packing stations.  The Food Pantry saves some boxes to be reused for storage. We also recycle paper and plastic.
  • Chiquita Banana  (tops and bottoms)
  • Peapod boxes
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository Salvage Boxes
The Weekend volunteer team leaders are a wonderful lot
Norm (Saturday)
Gina (Saturday)
Jon (Saturday)
Gerry (Sunday)
Bob (Sunday)
Even though they are just a busy as any other volunteer, they are always willing to take time to help you look for something  or answer a few questions.
We usually start with a team meeting and a prayer, before serving the guests/clients.
The Sunday team is currently looking for additional volunteers and any bi-lingual persons would be a great help for our Spanish speaking clients.