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South Elgin Lions pack food and more for 200 area families in need

A package groceries is prepared for annual food basket program Tuesday South ElgLions Club facility. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-Times Media

A package of groceries is prepared for the annual food basket program Tuesday at the South Elgin Lions Club facility. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 19, 2014 6:17AM

SOUTH ELGIN — The satisfaction that comes with helping out people in need, no matter what their circumstances, is what Leo Snyder finds most satisfying from the Lions Club’s annual food basket drive program.

“It makes me feel great” to see someone who has been struggling through the holiday season get the help offered by the club, said Snyder, immediate past district governor for the Lions Club.

He was club manager for the South Elgin Lions for many years before taking on the district role, but personally took on the club’s food basket drive four years ago.

Before the Lions Club took over the project, the South Elgin Chamber of Commerce conducted a food basket drive for the community. When the chamber folded into the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, the need didn’t end.

Now, 200 area families will get not only enough food for a Christmas dinner but also hopefully enough food for a week, he said.

“There has to be someone to help these people out” whether they are facing ongoing joblessness or just a hard time economically, he said.

“We don’t turn anyone away, and we haven’t turned anyone away yet,” Snyder said.

Each year, residents step forward to help fund the program, dropping off food, checks, coats and toys for the basket program. Schools throughout Elgin School District U46 conduct their own food drives and donate the nonperishable foods to the program, he said.

Many of those served are referred to the program by U46. Others are referred by the village, or other Lions Club members who see a need.

Kim Sipple works at village hall and saw a few women eyeing the food dropped off there for South Elgin’s food pantry. She referred the women to the Lions Club program to ensure they had food, too, Sipple said after dropping by to volunteer at the food distribution Tuesday afternoon.

Clothes and toys

The club does not ask a lot of questions of those who seek help from the program, Snyder said.

One woman who stopped by for a food basket dropped off gently-worn coats that her own children had grown out of, and picked up new-to-them coats from the Lions.

Those coats come from a drive offered by the Kane County Cougars in exchange for tickets to a summer game, Snyder said. Many of the coats still come with the original price tags attached.

During the basket program, the Lions Club’s first floor looks like a small grocery store, with tables laden with food. The second floor is filled with coats, as well as boxes of other clothes donated by residents for the program.

A few toys are available — at least enough to ensure any children get something with the food basket, Synder said.

Parents are encouraged to see if there is anything among the clothes donated that they can use as well.

Any toys, clothes or food left over following the event are given to the St. Charles Area Salvation Army.

But, Snyder said, “There usually isn’t much left.”

The food basket program is just one of the South Elgin Lions Club’s community events.

As one of the only clubs with its own facility in the region, members also host a eyeglass sorting party once a year. The local club picks all of the eyeglasses collected by area Lions Clubs and then sorts them — metal frames for recycling, and plastic frames for refitting.

And its annual Turkey Spin event sends checks to five separate area agencies.

“We are more community-oriented than a social club,” said member Ray Bachewicz.

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