SOUTH HOLLAND | Thornton Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli's staff gave boxes of food to needy families Thursday morning at the Zuccarelli Assistance Program garage.
The boxes, containing a "Christmas dinner," held items like instant mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, macaroni and cheese, fruit cocktail, and bread. About 1,000 boxes were distributed to senior communities in the township earlier in the week.
About 2,000 were left to be distributed Thursday, almost all of which senior caseworker Tannika Hughes expected to be picked up by residents who registered in November. Families started lining up at 8:30 a.m., more than an hour before the pickup was scheduled to begin.
"It's nice. I'm happy out here. It's worth it to see the smiles on people's faces," food pantry Supervisor Martin Sanders said. "It's not just a job, because a lot of people don't like their jobs. You can come here and do stuff to help the world and help the community."
"It should bring a smile to your face."
Much of the food was donated by schools throughout the township, where drives were held during the last month. The remainder was paid for by township government. Hughes said volunteers and Thornton Township employees put the boxes together over the last two weeks.
"We're doing this for Christmas, for the holidays," Sanders said. "Frank (Zuccarelli) gives back to the community. It's a good thing."
Sanders and other General Assistance workers wheeled boxes to the parking lot, cleaned snow off walkways, directed cars and signed in people picking up food.
Students from Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City helped stuff boxes Wednesday, serving a constructive punishment after school.
"They loved it. I think they made about 500 boxes," Huges said. "One guy said 'I'm going to get in trouble so I can come back next week.'"
The boxes helped make up for overflow from Thornton Township’s food pantry in Harvey, which is undergoing construction. Zuccarelli has secured a grant to expand the facility and the new building will be able to handle the increased workload, Hughes said.
"I had to come over (to ZAP Garage) to fill these boxes because there wasn't enough room over there," Hughes said. "If there are any (boxes) left, I'm going to give it to the pantry so they can give it out."
Illinois' emergency food program served 2.27 million households in fiscal year 2009, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. That number jumped to almost 3 million in 2012.