Sunday, 09 August 2020 16:34

Helping keeping shelves filled

Written by Laura Wolfe

Springfield area performing arts organizations donate to Springfield Catholic Charities Holy Family Food Pantry

08 09 2020 CC food drive woman unloads donationWhen COVID-19 closed schools in mid-March, Jennifer Gronewold, Special Education coordinator at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, started volunteering at Springfield Catholic Charities Holy Family Food Pantry.

“Kamayi Denis (Springfield Catholic Charities office manager) came back from a church food pickup with only six canned goods. I could tell he looked worried about how he was going to find food when the churches and schools weren’t operating,” said Gronewold.

Gronewold, who is also the president of the Springfield Theatre Center, had an idea and knew just the group of people to help her execute her plan.

With the performing arts community unable to perform due to the coronavirus, Gronewold approached them about hosting a food drive for Holy Family Food Pantry as a way to give back to the Springfield community, and the first-ever Springfield Area Performing Arts and Friends Food Drive was born.

08 09 2020 CC food drive couple cycles donation“With the absence of theater and performances, many of us in the theater community miss the love and support we typically get from our show families and have been looking for alternate ways to share that love, that experience, with the community,” Gronewold said. “It seemed like the perfect time for performing arts performers, staff, volunteers, and patrons to come together to support those in our wider community living with food insecurity.”

The food pantry has been struggling to keep its shelves stocked due to the closures of schools, churches, and other usual sources of donations. The food drive, held July 17 and 18, brought in three large truckloads of food.

Denis estimated the food would last about a month and be a critical source for families struggling from the devastating effects of COVID-19.

08 09 2020 CC food drive child and donation“The outpouring of support from over 15 performing arts organizations, including high school theater departments, has been tremendous,” Gronewold said. “I continue to be amazed at the overwhelming generosity and spirit of giving shown by our performing arts community. With three trucks full of donations and four hours of sorting and organizing, the food pantry shelves are once again full, as are our hearts.”

“The Holy Family Food Pantry’s ability to continue to feed people is only because of the generosity of this community and amazing people like Jennifer,” said Elaine Wright, Springfield area director for Catholic Charities. “Donations to the Holy Family Food Pantry are dire to its success, especially in the midst of a pandemic. The food and monetary donations from this food drive and beyond keep the men, women, and children in our community nourished and give them hope for the future. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Jennifer and the Springfield Theatre Centre, Springfield Muni Opera, Springfield Ballet Company, Springfield Youth Performance Group, Legacy Theatre, Theatre in the Park, Landmark Ford, Hoogland Center for the Arts, and many area high school theater departments.”

To make a donation to Springfield Catholic Charities Holy Family Food Pantry, or one of Catholic Charities many other food programs, please visit

Laura Wolfe is development director for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.