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New Food Pantry Doubles As A Community Resource And Vocational Program

9/12/2018, noon | Updated on 9/12/2018, noon
A grand opening ceremony was recently held for the Blue Cap Food Pantry located on 2155 Broadway St. in Blue ...
A grand opening ceremony was recently held for the Blue Cap Food Pantry located on 2155 Broadway St. in Blue Island. The Food Pantry is partnering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and will be mostly operated by people with intellectual disabilities. Photo Credit: Provided by Blue Cap

New Food Pantry Doubles As A Community Resource And Vocational Program

BY KATHERINE NEWMAN

A grand opening ceremony was recently held for the Blue Cap Food Pantry located on 2155 Broadway St. in Blue Island. The Food Pantry is partnering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and will be mostly operated by people with intellectual disabilities as a way for them to learn vocational skills and prepare for future employment opportunities.

The Blue Cap Food Pantry will be open exclusively to residents of Blue Island and Robbins on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and recipients must bring a photo I.D. and a piece of mail to prove residency. Eligible recipients may only receive food from the Pantry once a month.

Blue Cap is an organization which offers a variety of programs providing educational, vocational, therapeutic, and residential services to infants, children, adults, and seniors with developmental disabilities on the south side of Chicago and in more than 30 suburban communities.

“We are an agency that takes care of nearly 200 people from childhood all the way through senior citizen age with intellectual disabilities,” said Jill Hart, director of community relations at Blue Cap.

For quite some time, Blue Cap operated a state-funded sheltered workshop where day program participants found work doing final checks on things like the valves and springs of already manufactured products. At some point, the state decided to defund the sheltered workshop and Blue Cap found themselves with a completely empty facility.

“We ended up with this huge space that used to be a sheltered workshop and we have all these people that we take care of and we had to find another way to fill their day. That’s how we decided to turn the former workshop space into a food pantry which will serve the community,” said Hart.

Now, Blue Cap participants will be working in the Food Pantry and learning vocational training, inventory skills, and interacting with their community.

“The people that we take care of with intellectual disabilities will be working in the food pantry as part of their day program and then for a lot of them, depending on their ability, it will prepare them for an outside job and community employment. So it’s kind of a vocational thing for the people that we take care of,” said Hart.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository will be providing most of the non-perishable food in the Food Pantry but Blue Cap is still in need of donations to satisfy the need for perishable items like milk.

“We’ll be doing a lot of fundraising in order to get perishable item’s and to keep them stocked so that we can continue to provide this service for our community and our neighboring community,” said Hart.

The Blue Cap Food Pantry is the first time the Greater Chicago Food Depository will be partnering with a pantry that is operated by people with intellectual disabilities, according to Hart.