The Harold Johnson – Delavan Food Pantry feeds an average of 75 families per week. The food bank is located in the basement of St. Andrew Catholic Church, 714 E. Walworth Avenue. It operates from 9:30 a.m. To 10:30 a.m. every Saturday year round. People who utilize the pantry must be Delavan residents. There is no cost for any of the services or products the pantry offers.
Delavan’s population is around 8,000 people. It is comprised of families with children of all ages as well as individuals. The populous is diverse with both wealthy people and those who live below the median income level placing them into poverty.
Harold Johnson, a Delavan business owner co-founded the food pantry in 1990. Johnson passed away 6 years ago, but his dream lives on with the help of dedicated people like pantry director Bob Drefs.
A community answers the call for help
“Most of our food that we give out is donated. We have some great people and organizations, in the Delavan-Darien Community. We have a lot of money contributed so we can buy stuff when we become short in supply.”
Drefs explained, “The local supermarket, Piggly Wiggly, is very good in giving us bread and occasional bakery. If it wasn’t for the generosity of our neighbors in the community, we wouldn’t survive. But every week somebody surprises us with a check in the mail or a food donation and that’s where it comes from.”
In the eyes of a child
As the doors opened, a line of people had already formed down the walkway. The cool, morning air didn’t discourage the determined and needy group. People of all ages, races and income levels were there for food, a kind word, a hug and to be among people who wouldn’t judge them because they asked for much needed help.
As I stood there and observed the group, a child’s eyes lit up when he saw his favorite snack placed into a grocery bag. The slight smile the mother hid behind, was also dashed with peaking sadness. Bearing the emotions children can’t comprehend, while these people do their best to provide a normal life for their children and families, is a constant and difficult balancing act that this particular mother seemed to have become very proficient at.
Who are the volunteers?
The eclectic mix of volunteers who check people in, bag groceries and carry endless bags up the stairs for guests of the pantry, is an interesting one. From business owners to high school students who are earning “community service” hours for academic credit.
Dan Guadian, a former 5-year veteran of Delavan Police Department, has volunteered time at the food pantry for the past 6 months. “I volunteered for Lent and, after 2 weeks, I knew this is what I wanted to do. It is very satisfying.” Guadian said he’s never personally used a food pantry he recognizes the need in his community.
Ray Runnels, of Delavan, also volunteers time. When he was experiencing job loss, he was a client of the food bank. “After double heart bypass, in March, I found part time work and decided to return the favor, to the food bank.”
When asked what he’d tell people that are too embarrassed to accept the assistance of a food pantry, he said, “Everybody needs help, no matter if you’re poor or not. If you’re not working you should come here. That’s the reason we’re help is to help out.”
Jim Laban has lived in Delavan for the past 22 years. “I volunteer here because the community’s been good to me and my trim carpentry business for 2 decades. When things slowed down in my business, I got behind on bills and putting food in the house. A friend told me about this place. Never going to a place like this, I felt kind of obligated to help out. It kind of makes you feel about the whole experience.”
When asked about personal pride deterring people from coming to a food pantry, Laban said, “I had that feeling myself; making astronomical money in the former housing market. Being put in this position felt degrading. But, it is what it is. It puts food on my table and supplies for my family.”
Help is available
If you need help, visit the food pantry. Everyone is welcome. Anyone wishing to volunteer there is encouraged to do so. Food donations can be brought to the pantry, when it’s open Saturday’s, 9:30 a.m. To 10:30 a.m. Financial donations and other inquiries can be directed to Delavan Food Pantry, PO Box 466, Delavan, 53115-0466.
SOURCE: The author personally visited the Delavan Food Pantry and conducted interviews with clients and volunteers. The preceding information shared was gathered and is being used with their express verbal permission.