Families experiencing financial hardship do not have to wait until unemployment checks run out, or homes are foreclosed on, to receive Maine Township assistance above and beyond the Township’s food pantry.
Federal low-income guidelines permit families who are either drawing unemployment or other public assistance, or are working lower-wage jobs, to qualify for help at the pantry.
“They know they can come to the Township,” said Carol Teschke, Maine Township supervisor. “We have an emergency rent program in which we supply qualified people with one month’s rent. There’s also a state-funded program to help with utilities—AC in summer, heat in winter.”
The Township also will alert lower-income residents to local job seminars, Teschke said.
Guidelines are an annual income of $44,100 for a family of four. For a family of two, the income threshold is $29,140. “They’re chosen so working families could temporarily utilize our services,” Teschke said.
The need for government assistance is felt in a number of ways. Demand has increased among the food pantry’s clients. Workers handed out 248 food boxes in September, 20 more than last year during the same month.
The number of students classified as low-income jumped at all three high schools in Maine Township District 207 since September 2009 to the beginning of this school year.
Teschke said no resident would be turned away for consideration for assistance. If they need Township help, they have to bring proof of income to qualify to the Township Hall, 1700 Ballard Road in Park Ridge.
Unlike most surrounding township food pantries, Maine Township is not a member of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a source of area-wide food distribution.
“We consider ourselves a community-based pantry,” Teschke said. “The food stays here in the community. At this point, we wanted to stay within the Maine Township borders.”
Teschke said the pantry is totally self-supporting, and does not receive federal aid.
“We never learned to rely on the federal government [for the food pantry]; we do everything locally,” Teschke said.
The pantry re-distributes food, when available, to smaller free-meals operations.
“When we receive some large quantities like a three-pound can of baked beans, we reach out to a couple of churches, like Bessie’s Table (at First United Methodist Church of Des Plaines) that offer once-a-week meals,” she said. “Also Catholic Charities on Rand Road in Des Plaines, which has a Thursday evening meal for the homeless. We contribute to that when we have something unusually large.”