In the case of a new micropantry near AdventHealth Hinsdale in the Chicago area in Illinois, United States, one good idea led to another.
For the past three years, AdventHealth hospitals in Hinsdale and La Grange have partnered with the Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and the Community Memorial Foundation to run the Rx Mobile Pantry.
“Clinicians identify patients in the system who live at the intersection of food insecurity and chronic disease,” Janet Kennedy, program manager of Clinical Mission Integration, said. Patients are referred to the Rx Mobile Pantry, which distributes food twice a month at the church. But Kennedy, who manages the program, became concerned about people who needed food when the mobile pantry was not operating. She decided that a micropantry might fill the gap.
A micropantry is a freestanding box that holds nonperishable food and is open all the time. People can take what they need and can resupply the pantry; a sign says “Take What You Need. Leave What You Can.” Kennedy talked about the idea with Joe McGovern, facilities manager at AdventHealth Hinsdale. He was unable to find a premade pantry, so during a facilities meeting he brought up the idea of building one. Mark Fialkowski took on the challenge.
“When I heard about it, I decided I was going to do it,” Fialkowski, who is a painter at Hinsdale, said.
He got a plan from AdventHealth GlenOaks as well as some input from Harlo Chapman, a colleague at Hinsdale. But he was determined to build every part of the pantry himself. Fialkowski saw it as a way to live out the system’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ and paying forward his good fortune.
In 1995, Fialkowski fell off a ladder and broke his back. For a time he was worried that he would never walk again. “But when the doctors told me I would be fine, I realized that God was looking out for me,” he said. And he dedicated himself to looking out for others.
“I have been blessed that God gave me good legs and good hands to make things,” he said. “Every day I am lucky, and there are people out there who are not. I never worry about whether I will have enough food, but there are people out there who do worry. I just wanted to do something to help them in their time of need.”
For him, the monthlong work of building the pantry was a way of serving God. And he took it very seriously, making sure the pantry did not leak and would not blow over in a strong wind. He admits that he might have made it a bit too sturdy.
“We had to use a forklift to get it onto the truck,” he said, laughing.
The micropantry was put up in the yard of the church in April 2022, and it has been feeding the hungry ever since. Members of the church and people from the neighborhood help to keep it filled, and food left over from the mobile events also often finds its way in.
But the most moving contributions come from those in need who recognize that others may be in greater need.
“One of the really beautiful things is that the people who come to the mobile pantry often bring food they have taken from the pantry and donate it to the micropantry,” Kennedy said. “They will say, ‘I took this, but I think there might be people who need it more than I do.’
“It is a very beautiful piece of our mission living that we could never have imagined,” she said.