Food pantry director is Abby Foundation Woman of the Year
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com August 17, 2012 2:34PM
Joan Millender (left) presents Vicki Sline, director of the Rich Township Food Pantry, with the Abby Foundation Woman of the Year Award in Tinley Park, Illinois, on Friday, August 17, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 20, 2012 10:08AM
It’s been 24 years of struggles and sadness along with some laughter, but through it all, Vicki Sline has found a way to help Rich Township families keep food on the table.
Her work as director of the Rich Township Food Pantry earned her the Abby Foundation’s Woman of the Year award Friday.
“As the economy continues to adversely impact our communities, Vicki Sline is an unsung hero,” Abby Foundation director Joan Millender said in making the announcement during the foundation’s annual luncheon at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
The nonprofit, founded in 1985, honors south suburban women whose efforts have made a significant impact on the lives of women. It also raises funds to provide grants to organizations that assist women and children, and for college scholarships to south suburban women.
Sline, of Matteson, a finalist for the award in previous years, said she was “totally shocked” to be the winner this year.
“(The pantry) comes through every year because of people like you who support us,” she told the crowd of about 400.
In nominating Sline for the award, Mary Paleologos said Sline enables women to keep their families together, puts food on their tables, and finds ways to make the pantry viable in tough times.
Sline said she will place her award — an etched crystal plaque — on her desk and “go back to work.”
“I will keep moving along. That is what I have to do,” she said.
The pantry opened in 1984 and initially served 75 families. That quickly grew to 400 to 500 families per month. Today, she serves 1,000 families per month, she said.
“This is the worst we’ve ever seen,” she said. “All it takes is the loss of a job or a spouse and the whole family dynamic changes. Thank God we have been able to help.”
Although Rich Township provides space for the pantry, it does not provide food or money for food. That is up to her, she said.
She is vice president of the South Suburban Hunger and Resource Network, a consortium of pantries that meets monthly to help each other out. She also organizes an annual fashion show to raise money for the pantry. That event will be Oct. 21 at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
This year, the Abby Foundation created a “service dedication award” to honor Joanne Zerkel, a founding Abby member and former editor of Star Newspapers, who died earlier this year.
“She gave of her time and talents for 27 years,” foundation president Susan Gowen said. “We sorely miss her presence today. She was Miss Abby.”
Gowen presented a gift to Zerkel’s daughters and granddaughters and thanked them for “sharing her with us.”
The foundation also presented six grants to organizations — the Cancer Support Center, Genesis Therapy Center, Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care, the National Council of Jewish Woman, Respond Now and Sertoma Centre.
“This is a great organization,” luncheon attendee Kathleen Hickey, of Governors State University, said of the Abby Foundation. “It really supports and promotes women to do wonderful things and gives them opportunities they never would have had.”