Dwelling Place of Vermilion County gets new home for its unique pantry

Dwelling Place of Vermilion County gets new home for its unique pantry

DANVILLE — For the last six-plus months, members of The Dwelling Place of Vermilion County have been distributing personal hygiene and household care supplies to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness out of their vehicles.

Now they have a home base.

In October, the Danville Housing Authority offered to provide the nonprofit organization with a spacious unit at the Fair Oaks public housing complex, at 1035 Belton Drive, to house its Essentially Basic Hygiene and Household Pantry.

The pantry, the first of its kind in the area, is set to open later this month.

Officials said the space will allow the organization to store, organize and distribute products on a larger scale.

So far, "we have distributed at least 5,000 products," said Donna Edington, the group's president, who has been storing the majority of the items at her house. "In 2019, we're expecting to serve at least 4,000 Vermilion County residents with over 60,000 products."

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According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, an average of 100 people are homeless in the county on any given day. The Census Bureau estimates that more than 15,000, or 22.2 percent of county residents, are at risk of becoming homeless.

The group, made up of volunteers, formed in April 2017 and incorporated as a charitable organization the following October. In addition to collecting and distributing pantry items, clothing and some food items to students, families and individuals, members have been working on establishing a daytime drop-in center, where people can go to connect with other community members and opportunities to improve their lives.

In addition to having a place to take refuge from the cold or bad weather, people will be able to get a snack, take a shower, use the laundry facilities, use the computer to search for a job or educational opportunities at Danville Area Community College and talk to people who can connect them to local resources or just provide companionship and hope.

Edington said the board has been working with a local church on a location.

"Once we finalize that, we'll have some renovations to do," she said, adding the goal remains to open the center by the end of the year, "if not before."

Edington said the pantry site was offered after she spoke at a Kiwanis meeting, attended by Lon Henderson, a longtime Danville Housing Authority board member.

"He's our angel. ... We are extremely excited that the community has responded to our mission," she said.

If anyone is interested in donating items, they may drop them off at Central Christian Church in Danville until the pantry opens.

Products that are needed include body wash, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, laundry pods, dish soap, disinfectant cleaners, feminine care products and disposable diapers.

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Meanwhile, the Danville Public Library is collecting gloves, hats, scarves and warm socks; personal hygiene items; and nonperishable food items such as instant oatmeal and hot drink packets, granola and energy bars, tuna/cracker and peanut butter/cracker packets, raisins, nuts and more for its goody bags, which will be distributed at its fourth annual Project Uplift.

The resource fair will be held at the library (319 N. Vermilion St.) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 25.

Reno Torres, a library assistant and the event coordinator, said 28 local agencies — including the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, Christie Clinic, the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, Social Security Administration, the housing authority, businesses, shelters, food pantries and other organizations that serve the homeless and those at risk — will provide information and distribute items at the event. People will also receive a meal prepared by DACC's culinary arts department.

"We're very fortunate because more groups wanted to be involved this year," Torres said.

Last year, the event only drew about 50 people, said Torres, who attributed the low turnout to frigid temperatures.

"You can't expect people to walk to the library when it's so cold — and it's flu season. This year, we're hoping for better weather," he said, adding he's preparing for 150 people.

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