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Ed’s Way Manager Mike Nutley is stunned by how his shoppers keep the basket stocked year round. Occasionally, though, he has to return a carton of ice cream to the freezer and replace it with a non-melting item.

Besides food, the pantry also receives money, including a Crop Land donation of $2,000 from the 1st United Church of Oak Park. St. John’s Lutheran Church also made the pantry part of their ministry. Norm Young of the stewardship committee explained how the church made cloth grocery bags that are passed out on the second Sunday of the month and collected the following Sunday. This month, they dropped off 50 bagsful.

Each item is sorely needed because demands on the pantry have doubled since 2008. Christmas baskets have also increased twofold – about 500 will be distributed this year. Karen Dylewski, who oversees the pantry, said that so many families are hurting; they were having trouble keeping food on the shelves.

Karen’s letter describing the increased demand appeared in the Review last November and touched the heart of Forest Parker, Rose Krogh. She approached her neighbor, Marie Beckman, with a plan. After dividing Forest Park into sections containing 150 houses, they would distribute shopping bags to each house, with a note attached, asking the residents to fill it with pantry items and leave it on the front porch.

Marie thought it was a great idea and they hit 150 houses on the north end of town. They thought they might collect 1,200 items but received far more than that. They received a 65 percent return rate of full grocery bags: the record being five bags on one porch.

Marie and Rose are visiting houses south of the expressway in November. They also persuaded Schauer’s Hardware and Team Blonde to host collection boxes last year and hope they’ll do it again.

The two friends have found the generosity of Forest Parkers to be amazing and inspiring. Their work has also saved them from joining a fitness club. Marie said the front stairs provide step aerobics, while the bags build up their biceps.

If you would like to help the pantry, you can drop off non-perishable items at the collection sites or at the Community Center. They are seeking soups, sauces and pasta, as well as foods that don’t need preparation like canned ravioli and peanut butter. I suppose they could even use more Matzo Ball soup.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.