Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

CHICAGO (WLS) — A new expanded food pantry will soon serve more than 600 families on the West and Northwest sides.

After months of waiting, the Choice Store Food Pantry, part of Grace and Peace Church, is finally ready to open in North Austin.

“I know that the work is going to be great, and I know that it’s going to serve the most marginalized folks in our community,” Grace and Peace Church Pastor John Zayas said. “The most disadvantaged and the most needy folks, and that’s the driving force of why are we doing this”

This pantry almost didn’t happen. As the ABC7 I-Team discovered, the expansion was delayed because local steel company American Steel Fabricators took over $150,000 from the church, and never did the work.

That money was never returned.

“If you can dream, and you can see, and you can envision and you just take one step at a time, you’ll reach your goal,” Zayas said. “I know that the work is going to be great, and I know that it’s going to serve the most marginalized folks in our community, the most disadvantaged, and the most needy folks, and that’s the driving force of why we are doing this.”

READ MORE: Melrose Park steel company that took money for unfinished work now liquidating assets

Thanks to a collaboration with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and local workers, the pantry came together and is now ready to feed families.

Many of the families are migrants settling into their new living situations.

“We have so many neighbors in this moment who do not have access to enough food,” Greater Chicago Food Depository CEO Kate Maehr said.

The church hopes to open the new expanded food pantry next week.

Monday’s ribbon-cutting was a celebration of what’s to come.

“This is about love. Love thy neighbor, and this place does exactly that,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, a Democrat representing the 2nd District.

State and local leaders were on-hand to express their thanks.

“Everyone at some point in his or her life needs a helping hand. You are being that hand,” said U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Democrat representing the 4th District.

Two years ago, Maehr recalls pulling up to the address wondering if she was in the right place.

“It did not look like this. It looked like an industrial part of Chicago that had long been forgotten,” she said.

To learn more about the food bank, click here.

It’s located in the 1800-block of North Leclaire Avenue.

When it opens, the distribution schedule will go from two days a week to four.

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