BENSENVILLE – The story goes like this:
Multiple employees at Grand Subaru in Bensenville, located just outside Elmhurst, took it upon themselves to volunteer at the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry.
What they saw left them deeply affected.
“The first-class experience of doing all the work for [the clients] from the moment they walk in, to the moment that they put the food in their cars, to the moment that they left – life-changing,” said Grand Subaru’s manager, Ryan Drouin, on March 22 at a gathering of food pantry volunteers and board members at the dealership. “Absolutely life-changing, the way that everything was done so organized, professionally, and amazing, it’s something that’s not said in businesses, let alone in volunteer work and organizations as yourselves.”
So when Drouin and Grand Subaru owner Bill Hartigan were looking for a more formal nonprofit partnership for their dealership, the choice was easy.
“Tonight’s a little different, tonight’s a little bit special, because we always wanted to find that place in the community where we could use our resources and we can use the help of our employees to give back to people who really can better their lives,” Hartigan said.
That culminated Wednesday night with a check for $100,000 to the food pantry from Grand Subaru, along with a new van to replace the pantry’s aging 19-year-old Ford Windstar, and a trunkload of food donated by Grand Subaru customers already packed into the van.
Help for community
According to the food pantry’s website, the pantry served 867 families in the 2016 fiscal year, among them 379 new clients, and distributes more than 350,000 pounds of food each year.
Food pantry board member Kathie Watts, who accepted the donations, was emotional and ecstatic as she expressed her gratitude.
“We the food pantry, our board members, … we just can’t thank you enough for your generosity, for partnering with us” Watts said. “There’s no shortage of very worthy causes that you could’ve picked, and we’re so honored that you chose to partner with us this year, you guys really outdid yourselves, we could’ve never imagined this in a million years. You have fulfilled truly a dream for us.”
Drouin indicated that the relationship between the dealership and the pantry was far from over.
“Moving forward, we’re not going anywhere, we’ve committed to helping out a lot more,” he said. “We’ll be coming every second and fourth Tuesday to help out with the heavy lifting when the Food Bank comes.”
Watts also used the gathering as an opportunity to thank the pantry’s volunteers.
“We couldn’t do what we do without you people,” she said. “We use you, we abuse you, we work you, yes we do. We ask you to do the damnedest things, and you guys do it, and you come back the next week and do it again.”