Meal giveaway shows appetite for sharing

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 46

HCS Family Services doesn't date back to Hinsdale's 1873 incorporation, but the organization's history of meeting needs in the community runs deeps. One of its biggest annual outreach activities is the Thanksgiving meal distribution before the holiday.

Asked how far back that tradition extends, Executive Director Wendy Michalski said she wasn't sure. So she asked around.

"The best guestimates are that we have been distributing Thanksgiving meals for at least 10 years and that we have distributed over 3,000 meals," she responded.

In 2017 The Hinsdalean showed up to Anne M. jeans School in Willowbrook to check out the operation. Here's what we reported.

Helping pass out the 135 meals collected for the event were volunteers from Hinsdale Junior Woman's Club.

"We're excited to be able to take a minute away and connect with families who need a little bit of a helping hand this season," HCJW President Shazia Sultan said.

Stan Cook, then-executive director for HCS, said being able to stage the distribution at Anne M. Jeans, where the agency also operates a weekly food pantry, was important.

"This particular area is an under-served area, and it's an area that is in need," Cook remarked, citing data ranking DuPage County second only to Cook County among the the state's largest food-insecure populations.

Guests each received a turkey. a bag of potatoes and side dishes, thanks to generous donors. Cook noted that youth played a big role, including Hinsdale Cub Scout Troop 10.

"They collected at their schools and among their families, and they generated about $700 to buy turkey dinners," said Cook, who also lauded the generosity of area churches, supermarkets and an anonymous donor of 25 turkeys. "It's definitely a community effort."

HJWC member Denise Marron organized a pop-up clothing market of gently used items for guests to peruse while picking up their meals.

"I sent the message out to friends and family and collected a lot of stuff," Marron said. "I just want to give back, and I'd rather give the items to someone I know is going to use them."

Unclaimed turkeys were taken to Hinsdale to be distributed at Wednesday's food pantry in Memorial Hall.

Sultan said having teen members of both the HJWC and HCS junior boards pitching in was a powerful way to plant the seed of service in the hearts of the next generation. Even her two little boys had come out to support the effort.

"They were like, 'Are we giving turkeys out?' Yes! This is our favorite time of the year to do that," she said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean