CRYSTAL LAKE – Before Brett Siegmeier was going to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with his family, he, along with his wife and two sons, wanted to give back to the community.
“We left our home this morning to help out a great cause,” Siegmeier said.
Siegmeier, of Crystal Lake, was just one of hundreds to attend the 26th annual Community Harvest on Thanksgiving morning to help sort and box donated food items.
The collection took place from 8 to 10 a.m. at 6250 Route 14, next to the Hobby Lobby. All food and monetary donations collected during the event benefit the Crystal Lake Food Pantry.
“There’s such a need in our community for families who need to be fed,” volunteer Randy Leggee said. “So this is a vital part of helping stock the food pantry to feed those people for many months.”
Leggee, who has been volunteering at the Community Harvest the past six years, said he sees more people participating in the Community Harvest each year.
“It’s grown every year to the point where we have to have such a large building like this just to accommodate the hundreds of people who come out here for a couple hours,” Leggee said.
Throughout the day, families and volunteers from local businesses, scout troops, church groups and other local organizations helped sort donated food items by dropping them off into designated bins. Donated items that needed to be sorted included canned meat, canned pasta, cereal, peanut butter jars, tomato paste and other nonperishable goods.
“People in this community have a big heart and want to help,” volunteer Sarah Schrempf said. “That’s why so many came out here today.”
Last year, the Community Harvest collected about 68,000 pounds of food and $46,000 for the food pantry.
This year’s goal is to raise 85,000 pounds and $50,000.
“About 100,000 pounds of food could keep the food pantry going for the whole year,” event Chairwoman Judy Pelinski said. “And if we reach our goal, we’ll be able to provide the food pantry with enough food through August.”
“By looking at everyone who came out here, it looks like we may accomplish that goal,” Pelinski said.
Bill Pelinski, Judy’s husband, also volunteered his efforts to help load the donated goods onto trucks.
“The bins then get shipped off to the Crystal Lake Food Pantry,” Bill said. “So this is just a great way to start Thanksgiving Day.”
Along with all the pounds of donated food, each dollar donated can buy $8 worth of food for the nonprofit, said Bill Eich, president of the Crystal Lake Food Pantry.
“I’m just so thankful for the community’s support,” Eich said. “And I just want to get the word out there that if there’s anybody who knows someone who needs our help, to please recommend they come by the food pantry, especially during the holidays.”