Prairie Grove auto shop hosts food drive to celebrate 8 years

Crystal Lake Food Pantry continues to see increase of families in need

Owner Jack Shields (left) is hosting the JAX Auto & Tire food drive that will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 1 located at 5220 S. Route 31.

When Prairie Grove-based JAX Auto & Tire owner Jack Shields delivered his yearly monetary donation to the Crystal Lake Food Pantry this past Thanksgiving, he said he felt “deflated” seeing the faces of families, couples, grandparents and children waiting in line.

“All of them having the look of defeat on their faces being in a situation like this,” he said. “I cannot get that memory out of my head. These people are our neighbors, our friends and our community.”

As a way to keep giving back, Shields is celebrating eight years of business by hosting a food drive June 1 supporting the Crystal Lake Food Pantry.

The pantry is in need of as many donations as it can get, as it has been helping a record-breaking amount of people, volunteer Paul Georgy said.

Crystal Lake Food Pantry has seen an increase of 37% more families helped during the first quarter of this year compared to last year and 50% above 2022 numbers, Georgy said. Its off-site storage facility usually keeps a back stock of two months’ worth of food; now that lasts only about a month, he said.

“Something that continues on my mind nightly is ‘When does the growth stop?’” he said.

Flour, oil, household cleaners, jelly and tomato products like tomato sauce and paste are the most needed donations that the pantry cannot usually get from the Illinois food bank, volunteer Marilyn Georgy said.

With the growing rate of families in need, the pantry also is in need of more volunteers. Last month the pantry helped more than 1,200 families, Georgy said.

“When you increase 40 to 50% over a two-year period, that means the same amount of volunteers are doing twice the work,” he said. “It’s a deal where how long can that go? That’s a concern, as well.”

Shields opened the automotive maintenance and repair facility, located at 5220 S. Route 31, in 2016 and said he always has been looking for ways to give back to the community that helped build his business.

The JAX Auto & Tire food drive will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at the shop. Anyone who donates a food item or money to the pantry will be entered into a raffle, Shields said. Raffle prizes include Chicago Cubs tickets and a 65-inch TV. Food trucks, a bounce house and radio station WYML 99.9 FM will be at the event. Volunteers will unload donations directly from cars.

Donations also will be accepted at the auto shop through May 31 for those who cannot make it to the June 1 event.

Shields chose to help the Crystal Lake Food Pantry because it’s a nonprofit where donations “really make a difference.” Shields said he doesn’t have any specific goals for the drive, only that he simply hopes the community shows up and gives what it can.

“I just hope the community shows they care and we have the most successful event,” he said.

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