IBEW members light the way for food pantry volunteers

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

The Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry gets a mini-facelift for interior lighting, heating and more, courtesy of a local grant and the dedication of organized labor. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

AURORA — The dedicated volunteers at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry had been working in the pantry’s warehouse with limited lighting, while office personnel worked on the second level in offices with no heat.

But with a grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley along with pro bono work from organized labor, volunteers can now navigate the warehouse in ample light and employees don’t have to wear coats at their desks.

“We’re just so grateful to the Foundation and to the union members,” said Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Marilyn Weisner.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas and 4th year apprentice Bryan Cotes install conduit in the bar joist of the warehouse. This will prevent the conduit from getting damaged by the mast of forklifts when they pull product down. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW 461 member Burt Jones assembles a ceiling fan. Ten fans were installed to allow for better air flow in the warehouse. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer



In the warehouse, IBEW Local 461 installed ceiling fans, replaced damaged conduit and moved lighting into the aisles. For the upstairs offices, baseboard heaters were installed.

The circuitry needed for the baseboard heaters wasn’t in the offices, so it was pipped in from the back of the warehouse to circuits near the offices. Even with a heat diffuser on the second floor, it’s primary purpose is to heat up the area near the front entrance, keeping the windows from fogging up. What it didn’t do was bring heat to the back offices.

The work was done during the week the pantry was closed between Christmas and New Year.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry volunteers work in an aisle of the warehouse with plenty of light. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer


Along with donating labor, affiliates from the Fox Valley Building Trades donated various needed materials and money. SMART Local 265 donated a scissor lift. With the various donations, the pantry was able to use funds earmarked to pay for labor and apply it to other portions of the grant that weren’t necessarily funded.

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas said organized labor was more than willing to help the pantry. “In general, unions frequently donate materials and volunteer their time in the community.”

Every year, members from the building trades volunteer to distribute food from the pantry’s mobile food pantry to seniors at local retirement homes.

Food pantry gets largest corporate donation

Mariano's donates to Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Mariano’s store manager Victor Karlson presents a $10,000 donation to Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Marilyn Weisner and Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry Board President Lynn Flores.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — When the phone rang at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry and Executive Director Marilyn Weisner received the news that a $10,000 donation was coming soon, she said she was speechless.

“Literally. I was so surprised. This is the largest corporate donation we’ve gotten. It’s an incredibly wonderful donation,” she said.

The generous donation came courtesy of The Roundy’s Foundation, chartered in 2003 under the Roundy’s corporation, which operates 174 retail grocery stores and 110 pharmacies under the Pick ’n Save, Rainbow, Copps, Metro Market and Mariano’s retail banners in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

The Roundy’s Foundation mission is to support organizations working to relieve hunger and helping families in crisis due to domestic abuse, neglect and other at-risk situations. The check presentation was made June 27 at the newly opened Mariano’s grocery store in Aurora, 3025 E. New York St.

Store manager Victor Karlson said business has been great for the new store, which also regularly donates to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

“This is fantastic. Who doesn’t like giving things away? Mariano’s is big in being part of the community. And it’s amazing what the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry does,” said Karlson.

He said Mariano’s doesn’t rely on advertising, but more word of mouth and posts on social media.

“People come in, they really like the store, then they tell your friends. It’s worked for us,” he said. “There are still people that don’t know we’re open over here in Aurora, but word is spreading.”

All Mariano’s stores are staffed by members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UWCF) Local 881 union. Karlson said the local workers are happy and have more job stability than non-union shops.

“We have hired over 400 employees from the area for our 11 stores. It’s good for the local economy, and we are fair, paying a market wage. Our jobs provide more job stability and security, and employees are happier. This makes a better experience for the customer. It’s just how we operate,” he said.

Weisner said the pantry is currently serving an ever growing number of 1,000 families per week.

“With this kind of support, we can continue meeting that need,” she said.