Operation Blessing in 30th year of helping
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org November 30, 2012 4:08PM
Frank Sorice, director of Operation Blessing, marks 30 years of helping the needy with a food pantry in Crestwood. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:03AM
On a recent morning, Frank Sorice was short on time. He had an errand to run, dashing out to buy 1,000 chickens so 1,000 families would have a meal on Thanksgiving Day.
“This will probably cost $4,000 to $4,400,” Sorice said.
Outside his office stood a huge crate filled with cauliflower “that we got from some farmer in Westmont,” he said.
Sorice recalled another recent visit with a company that prefers to remain anonymous.
“They gave me a large check. There were tears running down my cheeks,” Sorice said.
The former pastor of a church, Sorice is the manager of Operation Blessing Of Southwest Chicagoland, which is marking its 30th year.
Located in Crestwood in a nondescript brick building at 4330 Midlothian Turnpike, Operation Blessing is the epicenter for some needy families who rely upon donations each month to have food on the table.
The area served is enormous, stretching from 79th Street to 175th Street and from Halsted Street to LaGrange Road.
“We believe we have the largest area for a (local) food pantry,” Sorice said.
Like most food pantries, he said, “We’re in crisis over here all the time.”
The most recent crisis — losing the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a supplier — has been endured. Under federal rules, food pantries that get USDA assistance are prohibited from using it to support religious activities. So when word got out that Sorice and others there prayed for the needy, the feds quit supplying food.
“They said, ‘You guys are praying for people.’ We said, ‘What do you think we’re supposed to do?’ This was started by two churches, the majority of us are Christian people, and it’s an outreach to present Christ,” Sorice said. “We told them to keep their food, we don’t want it.”
Other sources have filled the need — which never really stops.
“Now, instead of doing 1,500 families a month, we’re down to about 1,300. It equates to about 4,000 people per month,” Sorice said.
Sorice has been the manager for three years and hopes to one day have Operation Blessing in a larger location than the cramped 2,000-square-foot home it’s had the past 20 years.
Operation Blessing gets donations of food from people and church groups. It also uses monetary donations to buy food, or from the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Whatever is brought in doesn’t stay too long. Volunteers, many of them senior citizens, come in to prepare boxes that will feed a family for a week.
“Food costs are going up,” Sorice said.
Fortunately, interest in helping others also has increased. But for every new donation or volunteer, there seems to be someone new in need.
“I’ve seen CPAs in here,” Sorice said, “but the most I’ve seen increase are the trades.
“People tell me it’s getting better. I say, ‘Really? You should come work in the pantry.’ ”
Blue Island, Robbins and Harvey are the top three towns when it comes to need, he said.
“People can come once a month. If they came once a week, we’d never be able to accommodate them with the amount of food they would require,” he said. “We’re told we give the best boxes (of food) out. We give what we can. Over the last three years, the menu has gone down significantly. Being able to buy food is harder and harder. Costs have gone up astronomically. But God provides.
“I have a lot of contacts. I’ve got a company over in Alsip that’s been around for over 100 years. They told me to come in last week and they gave me a check for $10,000. That helped, but it’s gone like that.”
Food is distributed at Operation Blessing from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.