Thanksgiving meal distribution canceled in suburban Chicago pantry after fire – NBC Chicago

A suburban nonprofit is now facing a devastating loss after a fire damaged its building days just before Thanksgiving.

Together We Cope, located in the suburb of Tinley Park, has helped tens of thousands of families over the years in the southern suburbs, but now needs help itself.

“It broke our hearts because we are used to giving,” said general manager Kathryn Straniero. “Everyone who works here or volunteers here is there to help people and some of them came by car and we couldn’t help them and it was so difficult.”

The nonprofit temporarily closed its building after a fire early Monday morning damaged its resale store, pantry and administrative offices.

“It was worse when I got here than I imagined,” Straniero said. “When we walked in here and walked through the door, there was so much smoke. There was so much water everywhere, we are looking for where to put our feet. Firefighters were everywhere in every part of the building.

The executive director told NBC 5 the fire started in the back of the resale store. The damage is extensive, with smoke and water damage seen throughout the building.

“It’s very sad,” said Tinley Park Mayor Michael Glotz. “This resale store brings in about $30,000 a month, which helps us pay people’s utilities, their rent, their bills, we put people in housing, food.”

The food in their pantry is now contaminated with smoke. Damage is estimated at over $300,000.

Worse still, the fire happened just hours before staff and volunteers were ready to distribute Thanksgiving meals to families in need.

“I try to prepare letters to contact our communities, contact some of our businesses and see if they would be willing to help us,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge loss. This place is going to be closed for a while.

Residents donated money online to help. The nonprofit is now working with other agencies and partners to distribute Thanksgiving meals. Staff members know it will be some time before they can reopen, but they said with the support of the community they will bounce back.

“We are determined to be back strong for our customers this Christmas,” Straniero said. “We love the people we help, hang in there with us, and we’ll be back and we’ll keep helping you in every way.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No one was hurt. Click here if you wish to make a donation to help the association.

NBC Chicago

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