Glen Ellyn Food Pantry expansion feeds a growing need

Last year, demand at the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry nearly tripled when the COVID-19 pandemic took many away from their jobs. Now the pantry is ready to expand its reach even further.

Executive Director Laura Glaza said those who run the pantry have known for some time that the need for the pantry was outgrowing the space it has operated in since its founding in 1979. For that reason, planning began to raise funds for a relocation, she said.

Founded at and located in the Grace Lutheran Church, the pantry operated under a shared space with 14 Glen Ellyn churches collaborating in its efforts, Glaza said. Despite delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry raised $900,000 to transform the 100-year-old parsonage of Faith Lutheran Church into a new headquarters, which will allow for a major expansion in services, Glaza said.

“It’s all necessary to support the growing need,” Glaza said. “We serve 12 communities, and a pantry is built into the fabric of the community.”

Construction will begin in late spring now that Glen Ellyn’s Board of Trustees has approved building plans.

Full relocation of pantry staff and services to the new home is projected for the end of the year. The new pantry will provide more convenient access for neighbors at risk of hunger closer to the Roosevelt Road corridor and public transportation.

Reaching the lofty $900,000 goal was made possible by a multitude of fundraisers and donations, including a $50,000 match donation by the JCS Arts, Health and Education Fund of the DuPage Foundation, which ultimately pushed the campaign over its goal, according to a Glen Ellyn Food Pantry news release.

Glaza said the pandemic forced the pantry to change many of its plans, but community support allowed the project to move forward despite most fundraisers becoming totally digital events. A telethon via Zoom and a drive-up concert were two events that contributed to the campaign, she said.

“Most nonprofits weren’t able to do anything when everything shut down, but we never closed our doors,” Glaza said. “We saw 800 new clients last year, which was a big jump … so we’re really thankful for support from our donors and community.”

The pantry traditionally has made use of unused space in Grace Lutheran Church, but since churches haven’t been able to hold services since the pandemic, the pantry has been able to use more of the space than it usually does, Glaza said. She said the pantry used the extra space to meet its extra needs, but organizers have been cautiously aware of the fact that at some point the church would need its space back.

At the new location at 55 N. Park Blvd., the pantry will be able to serve a larger spectrum of neighbors in need because of its proximity to public transportation, Glaza said. In the meantime, Glaza said she encourages those facing financial troubles to come in for support and save stimulus checks and paychecks for other needs such as rent, gas and doctor’s visits.

“We can turn produce and food pretty rapidly with all of the need in the communities,” Glaza said. “Support from small businesses and volunteers is crucial. We haven’t been able to keep up with the need for produce.”

Glaza said she encourages those who can donate to check out the pantry’s most needed items list. She said the big need right now is produce. As the gardening season begins, she said one way families can help is by planting an extra row of produce in their gardens for the purpose of donating.

Looking forward, Glaza said she is excited about the possibilities that come with the relocation. She said the pantry hopes to do a multitude of new things with the space, including hosting nutrition and gardening classes.

“There was so much relief and excitement when we reached the goal,” Glaza said. “Now we’re ready for the next step.”