Police make sure needy families have food on the table

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — U. of I. Police officers and others from the Fraternal Order of Police, Illini Lodge 17, spent Monday morning making sure that struggling Champaign-Urbana families will have food on the table this holiday season.

This year, Illini Lodge 17 police officers and volunteers will personally deliver the food baskets to 450 families. Police officers stuffed the boxes Monday morning at County Market, 1914 Glenn Park Dr., Champaign, and each contains a ham, fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, eggs and canned goods — even a pie or cake.

“Everything needed for a real Christmas meal,” said Illini Lodge 17 treasurer Dave Parsons.

The program has spanned four decades. Police officers submit names of needy families of which they are aware, and Illini Lodge 17 also receive referrals from Family Service of Champaign County, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Crisis Nursery, Healthy Families, Head Start and several churches that have identified families that truly need help. Many of these families have small children.

The Senior Resource Center alerts Illini Lodge 17 of elderly people who are in urgent need of help.

“Lodge 17 is very aware that some of our local senior citizens are finding themselves in need of help, many for the first time in their lives,” Parsons said. “Health problems and rising food and prescription costs are but a few of the problems that face our seniors. We can at least make sure they have a decent meal at Christmas.”

Churches have helped the program for the last several years by donating toys, some of them handmade. Because of their effort, officers and volunteers are able to deliver small toys to the children in many of these families.

“This proven program has been so effective for so many years because of the many individuals and local businesses that donate in support of the project,” Parsons said. “The members of Lodge 17 deeply appreciate everyone who continues to make possible this gift of food and hope each Christmas.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, Illini Lodge 70, includes about 250 local police officers from the U. of I. Police, Champaign County Sheriff’s Department, Ford County Sheriff’s Department, Mahomet Police, Champaign Police, Fisher Police, Gibson City Police, Paxton Police and Rantoul Police.