From the far end of DuPage Township Food Pantry’s shopping area, Zully – a regular Thursday volunteer – has a unique view of the produce tables, refrigerated section, shelves of cereal and canned goods, multi-tiered dessert display, and rows of bread. After all, her first view of the pantry came from the other side of the table.
More than four years ago, Zully’s husband had to leave the workforce to undergo hip replacement surgery, which made it difficult for them to stretch their income enough to cover day-to-day living expenses, especially when his disability check took months to arrive.
That’s when Zully made the decision to visit DuPage Township Food Pantry, a member agency of Northern Illinois Food Bank in Romeoville.
“When I first walked in, I was embarrassed,” she admits, explaining it was difficult to reconcile her sense of pride with this new reality. But the pantry’s volunteers – some of whom she knew from their lives outside the pantry – were insistent there was nothing wrong with needing help.
And help is exactly what they gave her. For more than six months, the food pantry was their family’s main source of groceries.
“After that, we started getting back on our feet,” she says. “My husband went back to work, and I said to myself, ‘This will be my last day coming [here].’”
On the day of her final visit, Zully filled her shopping cart like usual, with groceries including fruits, vegetables, meat, canned goods, bread and more, but after loading her groceries into the car, her routine changed.
“I came back in and said, ‘Do you guys need help? I have a couple of hours,’” she reminisces.
That turning point – her last day as a client of the pantry – marked the start of her time as a volunteer. Today, Zully still comes to the pantry every week to volunteer, often passing out frozen meats.
“I’m giving back,” she says with a smile. “It brings me pride and joy that we’re giving to others in need.”
Her personal experience with needing – and receiving – help from DuPage Township Food Pantry is one of the many reasons she’s glad to be there each week, helping other families get nutritious groceries when they need them most.
“At one point everyone is going to need help – doesn’t matter what walk of life, you just never know when you’re going to be in that situation,” she says knowingly. “We’re here to take care of you.”
If you or someone you know is in need of food or additional help, please check out our available resources here.