Lakeview young professionals donate time and money to end hunger

Lakeview young professionals donate time and money to end hunger
Hunger plagues roughly 10 percent of the Lakeview community and young professionals in the neighborhood are working with the Lakeview Pantry to provide meals for individuals and families.

The Lakeview Pantry provided food for 45,000 clients in 2012, up more than 18 percent from the previous year. As food prices rise and the economy continues to suffer, many Lakeview residents are working with the pantry to help donate food to Chicagoans and to build awareness for the organization.

The Lakeview Pantry recently formed the Young Leaders Board and this Friday is hosting the 2nd Annual Eliminate Hunger Social. As their most profitable event of the year, the fundraiser should draw up to 300 professionals from the Lincoln Park and Lakeview communities.

The event will take place at State restaurant in Lincoln Park.

“The reason we are having it is to raise awareness of hunger needs right here in Lakeview,” said Ron Eng, President of the Lakeview Pantry Young Leaders Board. “There are really a lot of people in this neighborhood who have a significant need and are food insecure.”

Eng is an independent marketing professional and also serves on the Lakeview Pantry Board of Directors. When he was approached to be one of the founding members of the Young Leaders Board, Eng knew it was something he wanted to do.

“One of the most basic human needs of survival is hunger,” Eng said. “There are people that are hungry and we provide them food.”

The board comprises 17 young professionals who are committed to raising hunger awareness in the Lakeview neighborhood. These individuals are an integral part of the Lakeview Pantry organization.

“They feel like they are comfortable in their lives that they can give back. And they bring a lot of energy,” Eng said.

The wide variety of volunteer opportunities makes it easier for people who work fulltime to get involved.

The pantry distributes food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are also home delivery services for the elderly and disabled on Saturdays, so volunteers can assist those who can’t physically visit the pantry.

Trevor Higgins has been working with the Lakeview Pantry for the last three years and recently joined the board.

“I was looking for volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved and looking for a place that would be a good fit,” Higgins said. “First and foremost for me, there’s availability and the scheduling aspect. I needed a place I could volunteer after work.”

Higgins joined the board in an effort to continue to reach people in the community.

“I’ve been involved with the Pantry for a long time but had started to look for ways to take that to the next level and do what I can to fuel some larger change to help make sure they can continue to reach out to as many people as they do,” Higgins said.

The organization is 80 percent funded by individual donations and all of the proceeds raised by the 2nd Annual Eliminate Hunger Social Friday will contribute towards closing the food gap.

“There is a line item in the Pantry called ‘food gap’ and basically that is the gap between when food donations come in and the food we actually need to buy to fill the demand,” said Eng.

The Lakeview Pantry often fields questions about the need for food services in the affluent North Side community.

“Lakeview is a population of 100,000 people – it’s a really dense neighborhood, we all know that,” said Christina Wright, Director of Annual Giving for the Lakeview Pantry.

“In that neighborhood, there are about 10,000 people who are food insecure. So while you might not think that hunger exists in our neighborhood, there’s about 10 percent of people who are food insecure,” Wright said.

With the rising cost of food and a weak economy, the contribution of working professionals living in the area makes a profound difference.

“Being in the non-profit sector for three years now, it’s probably some of the most dedicated groups of professional volunteers I’ve ever worked with,” Wright said.

The goal of the event is to raise $38,000, but based on the enthusiasm for the organization, no one expects any roadblocks in meeting that number.

“The big thing for me is that these people are my neighbors. They live here. They have a need and I want to do what I can to help them out,” Higgins said.