A Naperville food pantry is aiming to relieve veterans from hunger and some of the stresses they face after returning from war.
Loaves and Fishes has formed a new partnership with the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide access to a veterans’ services officer at its facility at 1871 High Grove Lane on Naperville’s west side.
“(Veterans) are so used to serving, not being served,” Loaves and Fishes Executive Director/CEO Charles McLimans said. … “Many of them are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.”
DuPage County has one of the largest veteran populations in the state, according to Jeff Willis, northern division supervisor for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. And those veterans have not been immune to the economic downturn. One of the Naperville-area service offices alone sees about 80 to 100 veterans and family members each month.
“There’s a great need for it and a greater need than we’ve seen before,” Willis said.
The two groups recently announced their partnership during Loaves and Fishes’ annual Day of Hunger event. This year it bore a patriotic theme and was dubbed “Freedom from Hunger.”
The partnership is the latest in the community pantry’s Pathways to Empowerment program that stresses self-sufficiency by bringing in groups that can help all clients in areas like financial skills, job searches, language proficiency and income tax preparation.
“Our vision is to end hunger. … You cannot end hunger simply by giving out more food,” McLimans said.
The pantry has recorded about 27,000 pantry visits during the fiscal year coming to a close this month.
An accredited veterans’ services officer now will be on hand monthly to answer questions about compensation, education, employment, burial and real estate. The officer currently is scheduled to be on site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 29, July 27 and Aug. 24.
“These are benefits, they’re not handouts,” Willis said. “We try to make that very clear to them they earned these benefits, let’s take full advantage of them.”