Jacobs students find words and meaning at FISH Food Pantry
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org October 7, 2012 8:54PM
Jacobs High School senior Taylor Lauder pushes a cart of food for the needy Wednesday a the FISH Food Pantry in Carpentersville. October 3, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Here are a few of the items most needed by FISH Food Pantry:
Diapers in smaller packages, for both babies and adults
Deodorant, for both men and women
Dog and cat food
Feminine hygiene products
The pantry also is in need of volunteers, particularly volunteers who are bilingual in both English and Spanish, can use a computer and can lift heavy objects.
To drop off these items, or to volunteer your time at the pantry, contact FISH President Mary Graziano at 847-428-4357.
Updated: November 9, 2012 6:06AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Packing eggs and butter into shopping carts in the back room at FISH Food Pantry, Danielle Blanchard was excited to use the Spanish she’d learned in four years of language classes at Jacobs High School in Algonquin in “the real world — to know that it means something.”
She also was nervous.
“I just don’t want to mess up. It’s my first time using it,” said Blanchard, 17, of Algonquin.
The senior was just one of eight students in Spanish IV at Jacobs who volunteered Wednesday morning at FISH (Friend, I Shall Help), inside the Meadowdale Mall along Route 25 near Besinger Drive.
They registered clients, paired with regular FISH volunteers behind computers at a trio of desks inside the doorway. They asked what foods those clients would like and told them to wait while their orders were prepared, then delivered those orders — oftentimes using Spanish, many said, for the first time outside the classroom.
And they were “a godsend,” according to FISH President Mary Graziano.
“It’s wonderful for them, but it’s fantastic for us, as well,” Graziano said.
Volunteering at FISH is one of the class’ Service Learning projects, part of the Spanish IV curriculum at Jacobs since 1994, according to Nancy Gullickson, Spanish IV instructor at Jacobs. The high school was recognized as a Service Learning Leadership School in 1999, she said.
Service learning gives students the opportunity to apply their academic skills, knowledge and abilities to service projects that meet community needs, according to the Illinois State Board of Education website. Educators then help students understand and analyze their service experiences in the context of their coursework, it said.
It gives them the chance to get away from their desks, to apply what they’re learning and to interact with real people and build real cultural awareness, meaning they “get a lot of bang for their buck,” Gullickson said.
And afterward, she said, “There’s a change. I can tell. When they’ve had a real-life experience, they are more interested and more enthusiastic, as well.”
Needs at FISH
The group at FISH Wednesday was the last to volunteer at the pantry from a class of 38, according to the instructor. Other classes will take part in other Service Learning projects to be determined this school year, including teaching an exploratory class at Westfield Community School in Algonquin, she said.
Those volunteers come as Graziano said, “It’s just getting worse every month.”
“And the thing is, we’re all volunteers. Everything that comes through this door is a donation,” she said.
FISH spends $8,000 a month to keep its shelves stocked with food, something that “keeps me up some nights,” she said. And it is in need of Spanish-speaking volunteers, computer-savvy volunteers and — “there’s no way to put this delicately,” the president said — younger volunteers who can lift and carry heavy boxes of items for clients.
Graziano couldn’t say how many of those clients are Spanish-speaking — by law, that’s not something the pantry tracks — but she said last month FISH served 441 families. Of those, 432 were from Carpentersville, she said.
And Carpentersville is the only community in the Fox Valley that is more than half Hispanic: 50.1 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. And 31 percent of its total population came to the village from another country, according to census data.
On Wednesday, as students called the numbers of the first clients at the pantry, Gullickson and volunteers searched for the right words to explain in Spanish to be careful when eating the 300 pheasant breasts donated by the McGraw Wildlife Preserve, which might still might have BBs inside. They settled on the Tex-Mex “gallo del monte” — “chicken of the woods.”
Katie Walker, 17, of Algonquin, greeted the woman who sat down to register at her desk: “Hola. ¿Como esta?”
And in the back room, Blanchard and classmate Angie Jachniw, 17, of Algonquin, shared their interest in going into business and education, respectively, and in studying abroad. This is why they started learning the language, they agreed.
“Spanish is everywhere,” Jachniw said.