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Open Arms embraces its mission of aid

The Open Arms Missifood pantry located Rte. 83 Antioch. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

The Open Arms Mission food pantry located on Rte. 83 in Antioch. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Open Arms Mission

1548 Main St., Antioch

(847) 508-2599

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Updated: February 1, 2013 6:06AM

More than a year after she was hit by a car while crossing Route 83 in Antioch, Karen Russo, who has no income, no money, and no health insurance, discovered Open Arms Mission.

“They’ve been wonderful to me,” Russo, 56, said.

Open Arms, which has fed the poor, working and otherwise, of northern Lake County for the past 12 years, also pays for prescriptions for Russo, whose injuries included multiple fractures of the pelvis, and who is waiting for her personal injury case to wend its way through court, while she earns just $16 per month in state food assistance.

“You can’t live on that,” Russo said. “It’s depressing.”

At Open Arms, Russo has found other help, including a referral to HealthReach, a free clinic where she receives medical care.

Open Arms serves about 320 individuals per week from Antioch, Lake Villa and Lindenhurst and it has helped more than 40,000 people since its inception.

“We’re seeing more seniors, particularly because they struggle with the cost of their meds, and we’re seeing more young people,” said Marytherese Ambacher, Open Arms director. “We’re starting to see the second generation. The first generation doesn’t have money to support themselves and they don’t have money to get their kids higher education.”

Ambacher said she’s seeing fewer tradesmen coming to the pantry, a signal that the economy is doing better. But seeing so many people in their 20s, many with young children, is a signal that something is still really wrong.

“A lot of people are employed part-time, and single parents employed full-time just can’t make it,” Ambacher said. “The other key thing we see are individuals who have medical issues and families where the mother or father is on disability.

“The core of what we see are individuals who have emotional needs, who simply cannot function normally in our society,” she added. “And they’re raising kids who can’t cope.”

Open Arms has a budget for family counseling, “But we can’t reach everybody,” Ambacher said. “Addiction is at the root of a lot of need.”

Ambacher said her agency is in urgent need of funds from Help Them to Hope.

“Lake County has generous people,” Ambacher said. “In our little corner, we find when the need is there, people step up to help. Help Them to Hope is an example of that.”

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