16,000 Boxes Filled with Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, and Hope

Dec 13, 2021

It’s an annual tradition that gets bigger each year. For one week every December, The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Headquarters in Elk Grove Village transforms into a giant holiday food box packing assembly line, manned by dozens of volunteers who want to ensure that all their neighbors can enjoy a festive holiday meal.

This year, that transformation took place last week, when volunteers worked four-hour shifts to fill the food boxes with all the ingredients to prepare a holiday meal for a family of four – including cranberry sauce, biscuits, gravy, stuffing, and dessert. Each box will get paired with a whole turkey or chicken and then distributed to those in need across Chicagoland through The Salvation Army’s 28 corps community centers.

This year volunteers filled 16,000 food boxes, which is 1,000 more than last year and 6,000 more than the year before that. These elevated numbers speak to the financial struggles many families are still experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At a time when so many in the greater Chicago area continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, these Christmas food boxes provide not only a loving meal, but the gifts of hope and kindness from neighbors who donate to the Red Kettles that support these special boxes,” said Major David Dalberg, EDS director for The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division.

This hope and kindness motivated many of the volunteers filling the boxes this year. Peter Hirs, the Chief Financial Officer for Zurich North America, was at the EDS warehouse with a team of his coworkers to fill boxes on Tuesday. “We love giving back to the community, and this is a worthy cause,” Peter said, adding that Zurich employees will be ringing bells at the Army’s iconic Red Kettles this month as well.

Jessica Anis, an executive assistant with Zurich, said, “It’s all about loving our neighbors, reminding people they aren’t alone. There are still people in the community who take the time to think about them and give to them. We’re all in this together.”

Matt Coatar, the volunteer coordinator at the EDS headquarters, isn’t surprised by this compassionate response. “There’s an amazing spirit of volunteerism in Chicagoland,” he said. Every December, he watches this “Chicago can-do spirit” on display as volunteers from all walks of life show up to provide a bit of joy at Christmas. “These are tough times, but we’ll help each other get through it.” This Christmas, he has 16,000 reasons for that hope.

If you need a food box this holiday season, please contact the Salvation Army facility closest to you

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