Thursday, December 23, 2010


Rep. La Shawn K. Ford with Columbus Park Food Pantry Director Marjorie Cobbs surrounded by more than 10,000 food items collected by local students for their neighbors in need. (Photo by Brad)Last month, State Representative La Shawn K. Ford (D-8) launched a campaign to collect food for families in distress this holiday season because of the nagging recession and high unemployment rate. He called on students in Austin’s public and parochial schools to take the lead in helping out their neighbors in need. Students from 15 schools, plus MacArthur’s Restaurant and generous people from two local social service agencies answered his call with more than 10,000 food items in less than one month – just in time for the holidays.
    Rep. Ford also made a commitment to help the Columbus Park Food Pantry, whose 79-year old founder and Director, Marjorie Cobbs, needs a van to pick up her weekly allotment of food items from the Metropolitan Chicago Food Depository. She has been renting a van each week but, because she lives on Social Security and depends upon an all-volunteer staff to operate the pantry, this is putting a major strain on her ability to serve the more than 400 families coming to her for help.
    Ford started a campaign to obtain a van for the Columbus Park Food Pantry and raise extra funds to pay the pantry’s assessments charged by the Food Depository for the food it distributes free to families in need. As part of these efforts, Ford added a food drive to help out struggling families.
    Rep. Ford notes that nearly 800,000 Illinois families received food stamp benefits this year, a record high number, up 12% from 2009. In addition, Austin’s unemployment rate is double the national level.
    “With the holiday season in full swing, we are so grateful for the overwhelming response from the community to help give Ms Cobbs the opportunity to deliver food and hope to families in need,” says Rep. Ford.
    “It’s harder to get food to feed the families that come to our pantry, and sometimes it is almost impossible to feed the new families that come to seek help,” explains Ms. Cobbs, who has operated the Columbus Park Food Pantry since 1993. She adds that Oak Park food pantries that are refusing to serve Chicago residents are making her job even more difficult. Ms Cobbs says no one in need is ever turned away from her pantry.
    Persons interested in donating money to assist the Columbus Park Food Pantry obtain a van, or who would like to volunteer at the pantry, should contact Rep. La Shawn K. Ford’s Constituent Service Office at 773/378-5902.
•    Louis Armstrong Elementary School
•    Michele Clark Magnet High School
•    George Rogers Clark Elementary School
•    Horatio May Elementary School
•    Henry H. Nash Elementary School
•    Herbert Spencer Math & Science Academy
•    Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary School
•    John Hay Elementary School
•    George Leland Elementary School
•    Ronald McNair Elementary School
•    Joseph Lovett Elementary School
•    Leslie Lewis Elementary School
•    Christ the King College Prep High School
•    St. Angela Elementary School*
•    St. Catherine-St. Lucy Elementary School
•    MacArthur’s Restaurant
•    Westside Health Authority
•    Circle Family Care Network
*Collected the most food of all schools and organizations.

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