Volunteers concerned about talk of closing Colona food pantry

Volunteers say it would be “travesty” to close the pantry doors.

COLONA, Illinois - A plan by the village of Colona to sell a church that has served as a community food pantry for three decades to help balance the town's budget has many who rely on the pantry concerned and ready to fight the sale.

City leaders say they are exploring selling the church and a building that serves as the town's senior citizens center to bring in needed money. But that plan is facing heavy criticism from some in the village.

Janice Miller, who heads the Colona Township Food Pantry says she is worried sick about what that means for the pantry which has been around for 30 years.

"I read about it in the newspaper, that's how I found out. I didn't think they'd have the heart to close down a food pantry. We can't afford as a pantry to buy a building. We raise money to buy food," Miller said.

The pantry doesn't pay any rent, and relies on donations and more than a dozen volunteers to serve up to 200 families in need every month.

"We're funded by the community, by churches, by individuals. It's really needed. My worry is, if they want to sell the building, we got no place to go," she said.

Resident Joni Helke has started a petition to "Save The Pantry", and plans to present it to the council at its next meeting on Monday.

"I'm calling on anybody I can to stop the city from selling this building," said Helke.

Mayor Rick Lack says it's very early in the process.

"Right now, we're just getting appraisals. We're just exploring our options," he said, noting the village has housed the township food pantry for 30 years.

The mayor says its too preliminary to know if the village would help the pantry with another building in town.

Volunteer Bruce Smith said he hopes the situation is resolved.

"It would be a travesty to close this organization," Smith said.

For years, the pantry was located on the side of the Colona Police Department, and moved to the larger village-owned former church in 2012.