Since the beginning of the pandemic, Flossmoor Community Church (FCC) has helped the community with food needs through a weekly food distribution project. The Food Drive-up takes place Thursdays at noon at Flossmoor Community Church’s Community House, 847 Hutchison Road in Flossmoor.
The project started in response to the need of COVID compliant food distribution for the community. While there were other food giveaways started by other organizations, practices such as social distancing and use of personal protective equipment was not in place. FCC wanted to create a safe alternative for people to get food.
Once arrangements were made with Illinois Partners in Hope, FCC became a drop-off site for food. Volunteers are equipped with masks and practice social distancing. Drivers remain in vehicles and open their trunks and volunteers handle the loading of food, creating a contact-free experience. The food is pre-sorted into nutritional boxes, with dairy, meat, produce and other food items to meet the full needs of the individual.
“Flossmoor Community Church is thrilled to fulfill an area of social justice by bringing food security to our greater community,” said Brooke King-LaBreck, director of communications and community engagement for the church. “The need has far surpassed what we anticipated there may be. These are our neighbors, our friends and our family members who have never been affected like this before. But now, due to the times, [they] are really forced to be living in the margins. If the relief of grocery bills can be a blessing to you, we encourage you to come through.”
On average, the project serves more than 200 recipients per week, some catering to multiple families.
In addition to the food resources, other ministries and organizations provide resources, such as information on housing subsidiaries for persons affected by COVID-19, and voter registration reminders.
Volunteers are welcome, including children who are old enough to help.
The food distribution project is done through FCC’s Faith in Action ministry. According the FFC’s website, the ministry’s mission “is to extend the hands of the church by identifying and supporting individuals or organizations that provide for the less fortunate and improve the conditions of others.” This is largely done through financial support, use of facilities and volunteers.
The multi-denominational church is progressive and “embraces the diverse perspectives those backgrounds bring to the table.” Some of the other projects church members focused on recently were centered around social justice, a subject that is germane to the church’s ideology of inclusivity and diversity. With the continued civil unrest during the summer, several Zoom meetings were held to create change and thought leadership within the community.
One meeting taught children to recognize what white supremacy is; another was on how to respond in the presence of slurs and biased language. A 4-week discussion was held on the 1619 Project, a project that recognizes the 400th year since the arrival of the first African slaves in Virginia. More information about these discussions and others can be found at fccfaithful.org/adult-education.
In the view of FCC’s leaders, the pandemic has presented many challenges, but when the community gathers together, they can be overcome.
New organization AARI makes an impact in the community
Among the partners for the food distribution project is Accomplices Against Racial Inequity (AARI), a relatively new organization in the community started in response to civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd.
AARI organized after reports of negative experiences with law enforcement locally. According to the “about” section on their Facebook page, AARI is “dedicated to serving the Homewood-Flossmoor communities and eliminating systemic racism in Homewood-Flossmoor’s budgets; policies and laws; law enforcement and elected officials.”
AARI works in the administrative side of the FCC food distribution project, such as collecting addresses for those who need home delivery, as many individuals in need may not have transportation. AARI is organizing volunteers through sign up and a checklist with instructions on how to prepare for the food drive-up.
AARI also does voter outreach and making sure individuals are registered to vote for the national November 2020 election and local April 2021 election, as well as to be informed of key dates. During the drive-up, the volunteers pass out flyers with QR codes that will direct users to a link on registering for a mail-in ballot.
“We see food security and social issues, such as voting, as part of the work we do,” said Liz Varmecky, representative for AARI. “We want to make change, but we know people need things now. The work of supporting the community and encouraging people to vote go hand-in-hand.”
The food distribution project with Flossmoor Community Church is just the beginning for AARI, according to Varmecky. Interested volunteers can sign up for the food distribution project online.