As we’re well into 2017, we’d like to take a moment to look back and reflect on the holiday season. We’re grateful for Mil and Veda for sharing their story with us.
Nina Renee plays quietly with her pink duck stuffed animal as she and her grandmother Mil and great aunt Veda wait for their number to be called at Community CARE Center of the Chapel in Grayslake. On this busy day at the Center, Mil and Veda are two of more than 200 people waiting to stock up on groceries. They are especially eager to receive an extra-special gift — their holiday meal box.
Complete with a frozen turkey and all the trimmings to make a hearty, traditional holiday meal – including stuffing, potatoes, fruit and dessert – a holiday meal box means a lot to our neighbors in need. This year, Northern Illinois Food Bank provided more than 29,000 holiday meal boxes throughout the months of November and December to our network of food pantries and feeding sites.
Mil has been coming to the Community CARE Center once a month for the last couple years in order to supplement her SNAP (food stamp) benefits, which aren’t enough to feed her five grandchildren, who live with her and range in age from 3 to 15.
“Things get tight around the end of the month,” Mil says. “And if it wasn’t for the pantry, I don’t know what we would do sometimes. It would be harder for a lot of people to feed their families,” she says, looking around at the gymnasium full of people.
Mil notes that one of the best things about the Center is that they’re able to pick the foods they want or need, such as bread and fresh fruits and vegetables for her grandchildren, rather than receiving a pre-packaged box. Nina says that her favorite things from the pantry are popcorn and hot dogs. Her grandmother adds that she also really likes apples and corn.
Veda, Mil’s sister, shares that the Center has been a big help for her in feeding her nine grandchildren, as she does not receive SNAP benefits and her grandchildren are “really good eaters” who love their fruits and vegetables — anything from broccoli, cauliflower and celery, to salads and clementines.
“It would be such a struggle without this,” she says. “Even beyond food, the kids love reading. [So] the fact they have books here, and other things that help with their learning, means so much to us.”
Veda notes that their families are both very tight-knit and do many things together, including going to church and sharing meals.
Mil shares that, although the Center has not typically been their only source of support, receiving a holiday meal box during today’s trip is extra meaningful as her husband’s employer was not able to provide a holiday turkey again this year due to budget cuts.
“Blessings come in all shapes and sizes,” Mil says. “I’m so glad we came today.”
“We are so appreciative of what they do for our families here,” Veda echoes.