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Navy helps out food bank’s mission

Petty Officer Ericks(left) Chief Petty Officer Reilly discuss distrbutifood during food giveaway held Foss Park North Chicago. The Northern Illinois

Petty Officer Erickson (left) and Chief Petty Officer Reilly discuss the distrbution of food during a food giveaway held at Foss Park in North Chicago. The Northern Illinois Food Bank and sailors from the Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit at Great Lakes volunteered at the event. | Dan Smith~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 9, 2013 1:45AM

NORTH CHICAGO — The weather was less than cooperative, but that didn’t bother 17 sailors who descended on Foss Park Community Center. They were too busy helping residents to notice the fall chill.

The sailors, who split themselves into two groups with roughly half handing out food, the other half carrying that food to residents’ cars, were from the Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit (CSCSU) at Naval Station Great Lakes. The sailors have become a welcome sight around the supply truck in recent months.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to us,” said Wendy Giovanetto, the client services coordinator for the Mobile Food Pantry. It is her job to make sure a volunteer is paired with a resident to help them through the process. “It’s so helpful to have these strong young military guys help us.”

For about a year, sailors from CSCSU have been helping the Northern Illinois Food Bank when it hosts Mobile Food Pantry events in North Chicago.

“We need people that are dependable, that we can rely on to carry heavy boxes,” Giovanetto said. “They never cease to help out to the very end. It just makes the process so much quicker!”

Each sailor, armed with a box for carrying the food, was paired with a resident from the community. As the pair walked around the truck, food was placed in the box by volunteers behind stocked tables. Items such as frozen chickens, bread, granola cereal and cantaloupes were offered. Once the volunteer and resident completed the process, the volunteer would take the box of food to the car.

Master Chief Tim Malak, the senior enlisted leader at CSCSU, has long been an advocate for supporting the local community. When talking about the importance of his sailors helping North Chicago, he said, “The food pantry is so rewarding because quite a few needy folks live in the North Chicago and Waukegan area and a lot of our sailors live in these areas, too. Having them involved in the places they live is paramount to what the Navy teaches in its core values of honor, courage and commitment.”

By the time the Northern Illinois Food Bank supply truck pulled out of the parking lot on Wednesday, 285 families had been helped.

“Serving our country is not only about keeping its people safe,” remarked Petty Officer 1st First Class Todrick Christful, president of the First Class Petty Officer’s Association. “It’s also about giving back to the ones in need.”

The sailors have additional community relations projects scheduled with the food bank in January and March.

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