WHEATON, Ill. — As its name suggests, People's Resource Center does more than provide emergency food relief.
Since 1975, PRC has been a lifeline to thousands living in DuPage County, a suburb 25 miles outside of Chicago. The facility also has become a pathway to opportunity for those wanting to improve their lives through the center's many social and educational services, which extend to homelessness prevention, computer training, English as a second language, assistance with general education development, citizenship, job search and more.
“We never stopped at just food and have grown beyond emergencies,” said Mary Ellen Durbin, the center's executive director. “We take steps to transform people's future, and that makes us unique.”
The center relies on a large army of over 800 volunteers to run its many programs. Without the volunteers the center would need a budget of about $5 million to operate. Instead, it is a $2 million organization with 26 full-time staff.
The center serves what Durbin describes as the suburban poor. “These are the working poor. Poor people who are around you all the time, but you don't realize it. These people aren't getting paid high enough wages to meet their basic needs,” she explained. The center also serves people from 100 different countries who live in the area.
About 20,000 DuPage residents rely on PRC for help each year. The center reports that over 120,000 people in the community are at some risk for homelessness or hunger. Last year nearly 18,000 people received food from the panty, which is the largest in northern Illinois.
“Since March we've experienced a spike in usage of our food pantry, and a spike in new people using our services, and a spike in those who are returning to our services, because they can't keep up with the cost of living,” said Durbin. While the number of people in need of food is up 28% this year, so are PRC's food costs, which have risen 24% over the previous year. “We are struggling to make it,” said Durbin, who noted that 60% of the food distributed by PRC comes from community contributions, and 40% is purchased through the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Supervalu's Jewel-Osco, Chicago, funds PRC through the Food For All program. PRC reported it received a $10,000 contribution from the chain this year. According to spokesman Miguel Alba, Hunger Relief is an important part of Jewel-Osco's social responsibility program. During the Hunger Action Month in September, for example, the company raised $1.6 million in food and cash contributions to benefit area food banks.
Jewel-Osco has partnered with Food for All since 1991 and runs the program throughout the year.
“The contributions raised through the generosity of our customers fund a wide variety of hunger relief efforts, from local food pantry operations to unique programs administered by social services agencies. One such agency is the People's Resource Center,” said Alba.
“Food For All allows someone to make a connection with someone in need by purchasing food at Jewel-Osco. Just that simple act of generosity says the best about America,” said Durbin.