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Micro food pantry established in downtown Ottawa

Creator hopes to have them across Illinois

A church group in Ottawa is partnering with others in the community to ensure no one in the city goes hungry.

Crossbridge Community Church recently unveiled a new micro pantry Sunday night that has been placed outside of Jeremiah Joe Coffee and the 807 building on La Salle Street in Ottawa.

Allison Appel, director of the church’s Feed His Children ministry, said the group had previously worked with Jeff Eberhard, of Morris, to provide a similar small-sized food pantry outside of The Grove Center in La Salle.

“Since working with him we knew we really wanted to bring one to Ottawa,” Appel said. “We knew there was a need there.”

Passersby are able to drop off food or take items from the small cabinet-sized pantry, which is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The organization encourages the community to help take care of the pantry and make sure it’s stocked with food items.

“We’ve had an outpouring of people saying they’re excited,” Appel said. “It’s catching on and people are excited about it.”

Appel said popular items include canned food, peanut butter, jelly, cereal boxes and granola bars, which can be picked up and taken on the go.

The pantry is designed to serve those in the area who may struggle to meet their needs and is discreet enough that anyone can stop by at any point throughout the day or night to take a food item.

The pantry will be watched over by both the church and building administrators at 807 La Salle St. If the pantry is too full, either party will accept food items and will place them in the pantry when more room is available.

Appel said the pantry can supplement offerings at other locations such as the PADS shelter and serve the homeless population in the city or downtown for those who are unable to receive help elsewhere or are too prideful to visit a shelter.

She added all are welcome to use the pantry and hopes people use it as well as restock it.

“Anyone can use it,” Appel added. “If you’re having a rough day and want to grab a can of food then you can grab one.”

The Ottawa location marks pantry number 27 for Eberhard, who opened the first one outside of E-Z Auto Sales in Joliet in December 2016.

He said the pantries were designed as a place where the homeless, single parents and others in need could go for support without needing to directly ask for help.

Eberhard said one still is planned for Marseilles and another that was placed in Seneca has been successful.

“It’s incredible. We put one in Seneca (in May) and it’s amazing how that little town gets so much help from the local community and they help each other,” Eberhard said. “It’s a busy little pantry and it’s busy for both people getting what they need and so many people helping to fill that need.”

He said he plans to continue to add more pantries to the area and hopes to expand further as they become more popular.

“I want to cover the whole state of Illinois if I can,” Eberhard said.

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