Instead of worrying about the weight of the recession in 2011, volunteers of the Bolingbrook-based P.O.W.E.R. Connection, one of Will County’s largest food pantries, focused their efforts on garnering the support of residents, public officials, businesses and organizations.
The net result of these efforts allowed the non-profit organization to feed 32,000 under-resourced individuals last year, in addition to helping countless others receive the training and certification required to gain employment.
These monumental accomplishments were recognized Saturday evening at the , as revelers gathered to raise funds, rally the troops and tap into remaining resources that can allow the organization to continually restock and replenish their shelves.
P.O.W.E.R. Connection is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that assists individuals by providing instruction in life and office skills, preparation for the acquisition of a GED, as well as offering a food and clothing pantry.
Much credit for the organizations survival belongs to its founder and director Jerry Basel, whose faith, humility and humanity inspire all who serve and are served by the P.O.W.E.R. Connection.
“This concept started while I was on staff at Living Water Community Church in charge of benevolence,” Basel said. “We began providing job training in 2003 and added the food pantry in 2004. We’ve survived difficult times. It takes $8,000 a month to keep us going and there have been days when we didn’t know if how we were going to keep the doors open…but we have.”
“At a point you have to turn it over to God. When we stopped focusing on the money and started realizing how much we had to build on by engaging the community in our mission, the money took care of itself.”
However, money remains an ongoing issue as Maryann Koliopoulous who handles Operations contends.
“We are always looking for ways to help offset costs. It's a neverending struggle and it never gets easier," she said. "No matter how much a potential donor may be hurt by the economic downturn, the disadvantaged are damaged in far worst shape and have less opportunity to recover.”
No one summed up this point better than Co-Master of Ceremonies Ross Novak. Novak, a business owner and radio show host is a former food pantry recipient, who praised the organization and its caring volunteers for the much needed assistance on his personal road to recovery.
Novak speaks from a place of genuine understanding — not wanting a handout, but simply needing a hand. A firm believer in the law of reciprocity, Novak shows his appreciation as a donor.
Under the leadership of an insightful board, the P.O.W.E.R. Connection continues to improve efficiencies by identifying assets — human assets in particular — whose wisdom, ideas, contacts, and resources are shared to positively impact the bottom line.
One of those “human assets,” Marylou Johnston, was honored for her commitment and dedication to the cause. Named volunteer of the year, Johnston donated more than 100 hours of personal time to further organizational goals.
Other notable contributors underwriting the evening’s festivities included , Steinway & Sons, , (East and West), , , Rocket Ice Arena, Greater Chicago I-55 Auto/Truck Plaza, , CITGO Lemont Refinery, Woodies Transportation, Hands of Hope, , Village of Romeoville, DuCap, and @properties.
Among the many supporters in attendance, Romeoville Mayor John Noak best encapsulated the overwhelming sentiment of the evening.
“There is a great deal of respect in this room for the work of the Power Connection," he said. "What they offer our communities is invaluable.”
For more information about the P.O.W.E.R. Connection, visit the organization's website.