by Dani Kinnison
As part of a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, spent the morning in Galesburg visiting some of the city’s nonprofit organizations.
The Galesburg Community Foundation led the tour, and has ties with each of the organizations, whether through grant funding, its Knox Corps initiative or nonprofit training opportunities.
“We wanted the congresswoman to see the diversity of what the nonprofit world in Galesburg looks like,” said Galesburg Community Foundation Executive Director Josh Gibb. “We thought we needed to show her today where philanthropy is strong, where nonprofits are strong and working together — for an area of our size, just the vibrancy that exists and people helping people.”
Bustos visited GHN North, the local Altrusa chapter, The Orpheum Theatre, Discovery Depot Children’s Museum, Community Treasures shop, and ended the tour with a roundtable conversation with members of organizations who fight food insecurity — Knox Prairie Community Kitchen, Blessings in a Backpack and FISH Food Pantry. Both the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen and FISH Food Pantry are partners with the Knox Corps, the partnership between Knox College and the foundation that pairs students and graduates with local nonprofit organizations.
Joel Estes is a Knox College educational studies professor and vice chairman of the community foundation’s board who advises the local chapter of Blessings in a Backpack. During his time teaching in public schools, Estes saw a prevalence of food insecurity.
“My career was in public schools and (I) would see hunger on a daily basis, kids who got free and reduced lunch,” Estes said. He said when he came to Knox College, he got involved with Blessings in a Backpack, a national program that provides backpacks full of food to elementary school students who might not otherwise have meal options on the weekends.
Since last February, the organization has raised $32,000 to put toward providing meals to children, said Lindsey Morgan, Knox sophomore and the chapter president.
The Knox Prairie Community Kitchen and FISH Food Pantry are also instrumental in combating food insecurity in Galesburg. The Knox Prairie Community Kitchen serves hot meals to as many as 150 or 200 people, twice a month.
“We pre-set the dining area, so our guests walk in and it’s like they’re in a restaurant,” said Rosie Worthen, the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen president. Volunteers wait on guests, serve beverages and food and even bus the tables at the meal’s end.
“That way we can serve nutritious food with dignity, respect and compassion, which is what we are all about,” Worthen said.
Bustos said her time in Galesburg was a part of a week-long event of public service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “because of the kind of man he was and the kind of difference he made in our country and our world in giving back, making a difference and standing for equality.
“My takeaway form this visit today is that it takes a village — it really, literally, takes people volunteering and giving back, and collaboration is absolutely critical,” she said. “You are performing in real life exactly what we just talking about — you are coming together, you’re leveraging what you know, and you have the leadership to help you succeed. The other thing is, a community succeeds with a lot of good people — good volunteers in town, and you’ve got a lot of people who are giving back to make a difference.”
Dani Kinnison: (309) 343-7181, ext. 214; [email protected]; @drkinnison