- Oct 20, 2016
One of the Chamber’s greatest strengths is offering members the opportunity to make new connections and form partnerships with each other.
At the Chamber’s meal packing program last year, amidst the happy chaos of packing, stacking and assembling thousands of meals by enthusiastic volunteers, Henry Fetta looked around, and in his words “the wheels in my head starting turning.” He realized that there were obvious synergies with his organization Hunger Resource Network (HRN) and Feed6, the agency behind the event. “I felt there was a natural connection to be made between us and Feed6, because of our common goal to serve the hungry,” he commented.
Through an introduction by Chamber President Tensley Garris, Henry and HRN President Dan Jariabka began discussing mutual interest with Bill Kanetas and Chris Coyne at Feed6. “We felt we could provide them with some consistent distribution connections with recipient agencies,” commented Henry. Because of this new relationship, the Chamber meal packing event took a new turn. Feed6 worked with HRN to distribute all 50,000 meals to Pacific Garden Missions, Chicago’s largest soup kitchen serving the homeless, made possible by HRN’s contacts there.
But it wasn’t only Henry who made connections at the meal packing event. Deepa Shankar, a UL volunteer at the Chamber event a few years ago, recognized that Feed6 could assist with UL efforts to help victims from Superstorm Sandy. She immediately brought the idea to Tina Vaughn at UL, who helped set up a meal packing event at UL for employees. “Much of the food packaged went directly to the victims of the storm,” notes Tina. “Our first meal packing event was so popular that we decided to make it a tradition.”
“Without a doubt the networking of the Northbrook Chamber has been amazing,” comments Bill Kanetas. “From UL alone, we have packed over 200,000 meals. All of that would have not been possible without the Chamber.”
The networking has continued to evolve. Now HRN is teaming up with UL to do a joint event that will have even more impact. On Saturday, November 12th, UL has agreed to allow HRN to use its Northbrook campus as their distribution point for its annual Community Outreach Day. A hundred volunteers from the community will help load 126,000 pounds of frozen chicken into vehicles from more than 80 agencies, a process made easier by the use of the expansive UL parking lot. Inside, UL volunteers will be working with Feed6 to pack 50,000 pasta meals. As the event coincides with Veterans Day, both have agreed that they want most of the food to go to agencies that support veterans, again using the HRN connections.
“It is so rewarding to work with two awesome organizations on the common cause of feeding the hungry in Northern Illinois, and to be doing something to help our veterans,” comments Vaughn.
Feed6 organizers have also benefited from Chamber members stepping up to help their cause. “Several of our Core Volunteers are Chamber members – including Lynn Hallen, Andy Vass, and Alan Karzan – all of whom have assisted at several of our other events both in the Chicago area,” comments Chris Coyne. “We have benefitted substantially from Chamber connections as these individuals have followed us and have been very crucial in helping us run these events.”
After serving as a table captain at the Chamber event, Phil Kuhn coordinated with Feed6 to co-host a 50,000 meal event at the Rockwood Chicago headquarters last May. After reading about the Chamber event in the media, a Northbrook resident contacted Feed6 and organized a meal packing program at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Glenview. The same person introduced Feed6 to her employer AAR Corp which ended up hosting another meal packing event.