The Glen Ellyn Food Pantry could use a good matchmaker.
The food pantry was just building momentum in its fundraising for a new facility when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March. That momentum stopped cold, and while it has warmed up again, the food pantry finds itself behind schedule in its fundraising.
Naturally, it's hard to find businesses with the ability to help a nonprofit these days. Many businesses find themselves in dire straits because of the pandemic, just as the need is growing. The food pantry is serving 33% more clients than this time last year and is on pace to distribute 20% more food in 2020 than it did in 2019.
Hence the need for a matchmaker to fix up the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry with some businesses whose goals and resources intersect with the food pantry's needs.
Got that song from "Fiddler on the Roof" on a loop in your head yet?
Since its founding in 1979, the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry has operated out of Grace Lutheran Church in downtown Glen Ellyn. But space is tight and hours limited.
Now the pantry -- which serves not just Glen Ellyn but Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Lisle, Lombard, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton and Winfield -- has an opportunity to better serve its clients by repurposing an old parsonage just off Roosevelt Road, donated by Faith Lutheran Church and easily accessible by Pace bus.
The food pantry is about three-quarters of the way toward its fundraising goal of $900,000 for renovation and a 2021 relocation, but that final quarter, a little over $200,000, has proved hard to come by.
About 90% of the capital campaign's donations have come from individuals, and the operating budget is about the same. A sizable chunk of the capital donations has come from the pantry's own board of directors.
"I think that says a lot about how much we all believe in this," board of directors president Paula Serfling Nugent said.
While they're still counting on individual donors to contribute in small amounts, Nugent and new executive director Laura Glaza and know they need more.
Hence the need to find a few matches in the business community.
"Our intent is not to twist anyone's arm," Nugent said. "Our intent is to invite. We provide a service to the community, and our intent is to invite people to be a part of that, of helping us continue to provide that service."
For instance, the food pantry has plenty of naming opportunities available in its new facility, including the food warehouse, the welcome area and offices. Engraved bricks also can be purchased.
There are other ways for businesses to get involved also.
"That's part of the message," Glaza said. "There's more than just financial support that businesses can provide. There's in-kind services, especially these large food donations."
For instance HVAC companies and electricians can offer their services. Desks and shelving units can be donated for the new facility.
One place Nugent and Glaza aren't looking: local restaurants.
"We have made a conscious decision not to reach out to any of the restaurants in the community because they are struggling so much right now," Nugent said.
With limited storing and sorting space, the food pantry had to limit food recovery from several area grocery stores. It still gets donations from the Walmarts in Glen Ellyn and Bloomingdale, Jewel in Glendale Heights, Panera in Glen Ellyn, Einstein's in Glen Ellyn, Starbucks in Lombard.
Local retailers also have pitched in to help with fundraisers.
Unfortunately, other ways for bigger businesses to get involved aren't possible during the pandemic, especially in the tight quarters in the current location.
"Most corporate donors are looking for more than just a financial," Glaza said. "They want a bigger, more robust partnership, and we just can't offer that right now because of COVID. And that would include groups of employees coming in, which is huge for corporations. It's a huge win in terms of employee morale and employee retention when companies can provide these really lovely group opportunities, and we just aren't in a position to do that right now."
Like everyone, the food pantry has adjusted. Now it needs a few businesses that have the resources to help its adjustment into its new home.
"I think we feel good. We feel like we're on the right path given the circumstances we're in," Nugent said.
But do you know a good matchmaker?
The show must go on
The theme of adjusting applies to the Daily Herald Business Ledger also, including our events. We're not stopping them, just moving them online.
On Oct. 27 Dave Friedman of Wipfli LLC presented a Zoom webinar about how incidents of fraud have increased in 2020 and how to try to prevent them.
On Nov. 10 we held a panel discussion entitled, "Becoming a Best Places to Work Company" on Zoom.
On Nov. 12 we streamed on our Facebook page the Influential Women in Business awards.
Nov. 19 brings a panel discussion, "Pandemic Conversations for Employers" on Zoom.
We will present "2021 Business and Economic Outlook" on Dec. 8.
You can find recordings of the events on the Daily Herald Business Ledger Facebook page.