Friday, October 29, 2010


 Rep. LaShawn K. Ford kicks off a fund-raising drive with his check. The goal is buying a van for the Columbus Park Food Pantry to use for picking up its weekly allotment of food, to pay for gas, and to pay the Greater Chicago Food Depository for the food the Pantry distributes to needy Austin families. (Photo by Brad)
The Columbus Park Food Pantry serves nearly 2,300 people in need each month, providing basic food to families struggling through the economic recession. Each Friday morning, from 8:30 to 11:00 AM, a steady line of people carrying empty boxes moves through the basement of the Columbus Park Refectory, 5710 West Jackson Boulevard, to receive enough food to tide their families over. No one in need is ever turned away.
The Pantry has been a 17-year labor of love for its founder, Marjorie Cobbs, and her crew of dedicated volunteers. No one working in the Pantry has ever earned a dime for their service to others. In June, Marjorie Cobbs received the Wal-Mart Community- Builders Award for Community Service from THE VOICE Newspapers.
Although the Greater Chicago Food Depository tells everyone the food it provides needy Chicagoans is free, the fact is that the Columbus Park Food Pantry must pay 7-cents a pound for the food it obtains from the Depository to distribute to hungry client families. Marj Cobbs has held gospel fests over the years to raise the money to pay the Depository. However, illness, a near-fatal car accident, and deaths in her family prevented her from hosting her fund-raiser this year.
Undeterred, Marj, who is nearly 80 years old, dips into her Social Security to keep the Pantry running. This also means renting a U-Haul van each week to pick up the food from the Depository.
“Well,” she asks, “what can I do? I can’t let all those people go hungry who depend on me.”

 State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford gets a lesson in the operation of the Columbus Park Food Pantry from founder & Director Marjorie Cobbs as he is taken on an inspection tour of the agency serving 2,300 people in need each month from the basement of the Columbus Park Refectory. (Photo by Brad)
Enter State Representative LaShawn K. Ford, who has become an enthusiastic champion of the Columbus Park Food Pantry and an outspoken admirer of Marj Cobbs. “I an amazed,” Ford said while conducting an inspection visit of the Pantry, meeting its staff, and hearing Ms Cobbs tell how the agency operates.
“She is a modern day saint who is always thinking of other people when she has long ago earned the right to sit down and take it easy. She is an inspiration,” Ford declares. “How can you not want to help her?”
So, Rep. Ford is depending upon the generosity of West Siders to open their hearts and wallets to ensure the Columbus Park Food Pantry continues to help neighbors in need as we head into the holiday season. Ford has set a goal of $5,000 to be used to purchase a van for picking up the Pantry’s weekly order of several thousand pounds of food. If more money is raised, it can pay for gasoline and maintenance for the van, plus pay the Food Depository for the Pantry’s weekly order of food. Alderman Deborah Graham of the 29th ward says she is joining the campaign.
Marj Cobbs notes that pressure is increasing on her Pantry to serve more people because many Chicagoans who obtained their food from Oak Park pantries are being turned away and told to visit Chicago pantries. This has boosted the number of weekly patrons at the Columbus Park Food Pantry.   
The Columbus Park Food Pantry is a tax-exempt not-for-profit agency and all contributions are tax-deductible. Checks may be sent in care of Representative LaShawn K. Ford, 5104 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60651. Designate that the money is for the Columbus Park Food Pantry Fund and a receipt will be mailed to you.
Columbus Park Food Pantry Director Marjorie Cobbs tells Rep. LaShawn K. Ford that the number of clients coming in is increasing because of the recession and because Oak Park pantries are turning away Chicago residents needing food. (Photo by Brad)

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