A beacon of hope shines at Foster and Cumberland avenues in Norridge.
That’s where the Salvation Army Norridge Citadel meets the needs of its neighbors: at least 100 people per month, up from about 40 a few years back.
“A supportive community is what makes the agency’s food pantry a success,” said Capt. Brian Davis. “It’s exciting to see how the community rises to meet the need.”
That includes the business community that, on a weekly basis, provides not only such staples as canned goods and pasta but also baked goods such as cheesecakes, muffins and croissants.
“We couldn’t do on our own,” Davis said. “We’re fortunate that the local businesses help us year-round.”
This year the citadel saw a bit of a dip in clients over the summer.
“But that’s a good thing,” Davis noted. “Summer is a slow time for donations since the schools and churches don’t hold food drives.
“God watches over us,” he said with a smile.
Volunteer Mike Flahive, a retired firefighter, said he used to volunteer at the Salvation Army when he lived in Florida.
“As a former firefighter, I’m used to helping, serving others in need,” he explained. “How many people are one paycheck away” from needing the services of the citadel’s food pantry?
“I count my blessings, and help when I can. And now that I live close by, I came here,” he said. “This place has everything — food, clothes. It’s a very nice operation.”
Frank Smothers of Norridge also enjoys volunteering.
“They were there for me when I needed help,” he said, “so I give back.
“Some people just take and take and don’t give something back. That’s not right.”
Melissa Wohlgemuth of Schiller Park said the pantry has helped her and her son during the lean times.
“We’ve been on a very tight budget,” she said. “I just started working again.”
In addition to helping her stretch her food dollars, Wohlgemuth said the Salvation Army service also has taught her son responsibility.
“He realizes that sometimes people need help,” she explained. “And that’s OK. And when we get back on our feet, we will help others.”
Gina Dougherty was observing the activity on behalf state Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-20th of Chicago.
“I’ve donated to the boxes outside,” she said of the collection containers on the northeast side of the citadel’s parking lot. “But I’ve never been inside.”
She described the food distribution program as amazing.
“It’s so nice to know people have a place to go when they need a little help. And the community is so supportive.”
Melanie Thompson of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley’s office said she used to volunteer at a Salvation Army citadel when she was younger.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I enjoyed it.”
And what she observed at the Norridge Citadel just brought home that sentiment.
“This is such a wonderful organization,” she noted. “And the community support here is just amazing.”
Davis knows why.
“The people here have that sense of community,” he said. “They’re very concerned about their neighbors.
In some communities, the neighbors are faceless, nameless, but here the people see their neighbors are in need.
“They don’t need the specifics,” he noted. “They just know that they want to help.