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For 6 Years ‘Pack The Car’ Has Helped Edgewater Residents In Need, One Trunkful At A Time

13480071_10154294850839772_2103700033_nThere are those who sit or stand outside restaurants watching those who are hungry enter those restaurants and those who are no longer hungry exit those restaurants.

Then there are those who, also no longer hungry, walk out of those restaurants carrying leftovers.

It was also in the midst of a downtown Chicago winter that Edgewater couple Steven Pryor and Gregg Rojewski first decided to create Pack the Car.

“A gentleman approached us after we completed our meal asking for some help to get dinner,” Pryor said. “Unfortunately, neither of us had carried any cash that evening. Shortly after the man walked away, we realized that we had almost an entire dinner worth of leftovers. I approached the man and offered the leftovers. He accepted, but we were not sure if he was just going to cross the street and toss the food away or eat it. We watched as he crossed the street. He did not throw away the leftovers. Instead, he ate the entire contents standing over a garbage can. This man was obviously hungry.”

“Later that evening, we talked about how we personally had not been in a situation where we were hungry. Of course we are hungry close to meal times, but not the real feeling of hunger when someone has no food to eat. That night, we went home and planned to do a one-time food drive in January following the holidays when donations are down. Six years later, we have held at least one Pack The Car event a month (rain, snow or shine) collecting food, clothing and monetary donations for Care For Real.”

Pack the Car is a grassroots effort to offer a more convenient method to donate food and clothing to local community support groups, according to the organization’s website. It seeks to strengthen the Edgewater community by relying on the generosity and enthusiasm of neighbors, local businesses, friends and family that drive and support it.

Pack the Car takes place on the last Saturday of each month at the northeast corner of Clark and Berwyn in Andersonville between 9 a.m. and noon. The next event is this Saturday, June 25.

pack-th-car-2Care for Real has become the organization’s sole beneficiary of the items Pack the Car collects. Located at 5339 N. Sheridan Road, the 501(c)(3) non-profit provides food, clothing and counseling services to those in need. It offers on-site food distribution, deliveries to the homebound, a free clothes closet and a case-management program to help clients connect with other services they may need.

“Steven and Gregg are a blessing to Care for Real in many ways — faithful and dedicated supporters who truly represent the foundation of what makes our community special — helping to ensure Care for Real remains impactful, meaningful and a vital and beloved neighborhood institution,” said Lyle Allen, the organization’s executive director.

“Each month, rain or shine, they carry on Care for Real’s message to hundreds, securing thousands of donations annually, while extending our mission and proving that by working collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of those turning to Care for Real for food and clothing.”

“Steven and Gregg are a testament to the heart and soul of Edgewater,” Allen said.

Pryor said he and Rojewski believe that more people have become aware of Care for Real and the services it provides for the community in part because of Pack the Car. Through the years, the types of food that are donated to Pack the Car have changed, as well.

“Instead of highly processed items that may be the cheapest at the store, we are seeing more organic items and whole foods with more nutritional value,” Pryor said. “Also, the change of seasons tend to dictate what Care for Real needs most (i.e., warm coats in the winter and fans/air conditioners in the summer.)”

He added that it did take a while for people to understand what Pryor and Rojewski were seeking to accomplish. At the first event, held in 6-degree weather with below-zero windchills in January 2010, the couple stood on the corner of Clark and Berwyn with homemade signs on their car.

“I don’t blame them,” Pryor said. “I would be asking the same thing if I was them.”

But now, Pack the Car’s monthly efforts to completely fill the entire interior of a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport are made possible with the help of a number of regular donors.

“It’s amazing to see them month after month with more and more items,” Pryor said. “In fact, our very first donor, Clay Cerny, Ph.D, who owns AAA Targeted Writing and Coaching Services in Andersonville, visits us each month. We are grateful for everyone who has helped to sustain our efforts over the years.”

A couple of years ago, Pryor added, a gentleman stopped by one of Pack the Car’s events to thank Pryor and Rojewski. He had shopped in the clothing closet run by Care For Real and was grateful for the services they provided him and our efforts to help the organization.

“Those moments are a reminder that we are doing the right thing,” Pryor said.

 


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