Hunger affects all of us. And sometimes it hits closer to home. That’s what happened in 1981 when a volunteer at Willow Creek heard about families in the church who were struggling. Circumstances were making it challenging to put food on the table. So the volunteer did something about it. He purchased groceries, put them into the trunk of his car, and gave them away after one of the church services.It was one step toward others—and that simple step led to the birth of Willow Creek’s Food Pantry. It wasn’t long before the entire congregation got involved, purchasing groceries twice a year to be given away to families in need.
In 1988, God whispered to three friends at Willow to take a different step. They were mechanics who loved tinkering with cars. Why not take that passion and use it to serve others? So they began fixing cars—free of charge—for single moms. Others at church heard about what they were doing, and soon Creekers were on board, donating vehicles for the sole purpose of blessing single moms with reliable transportation.
It was another step in response to the Holy Spirit. And another ministry—C.A.R.S.—was born.
With a mission to change hunger to hope, the Food Pantry expanded and was able serve people not only in the Willow Creek church family, but also those who lived in the community—people who needed food and were also hungry for true hope.
Responding to these needs with love, prayer, and practical help, the Food Pantry changed its name to the Care Center, and expanded to meet the needs of the growing number of guests who needed help. In an effort to move beyond food, the Care Center added services including English as a Second language (ESL), legal consultation, employment counseling, and health screenings.
Walk by Faith
When the bottom fell out of the economy, the number of guest visits to the Care Center grew by a staggering 307 percent. But God continued to provide. The amount of food gleaned from local businesses expanded by 685 percent; the number of volunteers increased by 400 percent; and a partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository allowed the Care Center to maximize the food they obtained.
Today, more than 2,000 volunteers serve at Willow's Care Center on a regular basis. They represent a beautiful orchestration of young and old, Creekers and non-Creekers, young adults with special needs, senior groups, and corporate partners. Every volunteer brings a unique contribution to the ministry.
As they've served with humble hearts, extending the love of Christ, thousands of people have found true hope. When asked why they come to the Care Center, guests reply, “Something is different in this place. The Spirit of God is here.”
Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.
As a Compassion & Justice ministry, the Care Center’s mission is:
Fighting poverty and injustice so that lives are transformed and Jesus is known.
We live out this mission by sharing the hope and love of Christ while meeting basic needs and offering long-term solutions that empower people toward a more stable future.
We hold firmly to the following core values:
- Dignity. We believe in creating a radically inclusive community where people are treated with dignity and respect regardless of their ethnic, economic, legal, or religious status.
- Hope. We believe true hope is found in a redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Transformation. We believe transformation occurs in the hearts of those serving and being served, as God redeems hurting people and broken situations.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
—1 Corinthians 13:13
Sometimes life is just hard. Storms come, on winds of job loss, accident, illness, financial stress, or a collision of multiple fronts. Some are predictable; others have no warning at all. But when the storms hit, the Willow Creek Care Center is ready to help.The Care Center team is passionate about providing immediate relief in times of crisis, as well as guiding people toward long-term solutions. From groceries and shelter to education, employment services, and legal consultation, the Care Center takes a holistic approach to serving people in need. Most of all, the Care Center offers an environment of love, compassion, and hope, where authentic relationships can flourish.
Meeting immediate needs in a crisis
Food: Individuals or families in need may come to the Care Center once a month to receive groceries free of charge. Fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat are usually available, in addition to canned or boxed food. Our full choice food pantry offers the guest the dignity of shopping for their own dietary needs. Learn More >>
Children's Clothing: Families in need may come to the Care Center to shop for new and gently used clothing for their children (sizes from infant through children's size 14/XL). The store offers each item at a low cost - giving the parent/guardian the dignity of purchasing for their children. Clothing requires parents to present their AllKids card at intake, or meet with the Care Team for eligibility. Learn More>>
Housing: Care Center volunteers can assist homeowners with minor repairs so their home is a safe, decent place to live. In addition, during cooler months, Willow Creek provides emergency shelter on Thursday nights for individuals or families who are homeless, as part of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS). Learn More >>
Transportation: Volunteer mechanics provide diagnostic inspections and car repairs to those in need of reliable transportation. All Transportation Services require eligibility screening through the Care Team. Learn More >>
Steps toward a stable, financially secure future
Care Team: The Care Team exists to provide encouragement and hope to people in difficult circumstances. Volunteers listen to each person's story, consider the situation objectively, execute eligibility screening for Care Center services, and offer wisdom and practical next steps. Learn More >>
Education: For those who wish to enhance their skills, the Care Center offers ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. Learn More >>
Employment Services: Employment services is available to anyone who is unemployed or seeking a job that better aligns with their abilities and goals. Services include one-on-one consultation and workshops addressing topics such as job search, résumé writing, networking, and preparing for an interview. Job fairs with local employers are held throughout the year. Job Connection, an online job repository, is also available. Learn More >>
Health Services: Blood pressure, iron, and glucose screenings are available to help identify health issues before they become serious. If a problem is found, referrals to other organizations for additional care are provided. A full dental and vision clinic is now open. Dental and vision care requires eligibility screening through the Care Team and each exam costs $20. Guidance for unplanned pregnancies is also available. Learn More >>
Legal Services: Consultation with a trusted attorney is available to anyone who needs legal advice but cannot afford a lawyer. Support groups are also available for individuals who have recently been released from prison, as well as families who have a loved one in prison. Learn More >>
Financial Services: Tax preparation services (through the IRS's VITA program) is available each tax season (January - April 15). Learn More >>
It was a distinguishing characteristic of the Acts 2 church. The believers took care of one another by meeting basic needs.
They didn’t just give leftovers or extras from an abundance of possessions. Their concern was so deep they even sold items of great value, just so they would have something to give away. No possession was more precious than the people God had placed in their lives.
Our desire is that Willow would demonstrate that same kind of compassion and generosity. And it starts with you.
Whether you donate clothing, vehicles, computers, food or finances, your generosity will be a tangible expression of God’s love to people right here in our own community. Here are some of the most helpful ways you can give.
- Contributions by cash or check may be placed in the offering during any weekend service. Please be sure to indicate that your gift is for the CARE CENTER. Include your name and address on the check or envelope if you wish to receive credit for tax purposes.
- You may also make your donation by mail. Send your donation to Willow’s main campus at 67 East Algonquin Road, South Barrington, IL 60010. Again, please indicate that your gift is for the CARE CENTER and include your name and address for tax purposes.
- Donations may be dropped to the outdoor collection bin in the parking lot between the D and F entrances.
- New or gently used children’s clothing.
- Sizes newborn through children’s 14/16 (XL).
- Donations of children’s socks, undergarments, and pajamas must be new.
- Children’s and adult shoes, all sizes. Please rubber-band in pairs.
- The C.A.R.S. Ministry of Willow Creek gladly accepts donations of cars, motorcycles, RVs and boats, in any condition. Donate!
- To learn more about IRS regulations for vehicle donations, read the IRS Vehicle Donation Guide and 1098-C IRS Vehicle Donation Form Instructions.
- Vehicles are picked up free of charge.
- Qualified vehicles are repaired and cleaned, then given to approved families in need of transportation.
- Junk and clunkers are sold, with proceeds used toward the repair of other vehicles.
- Have you already donated and need to reprint your tax letter? Tax Letter Reprint
- C.A.R.S. FAQs
- The Computer Connection ministry of Willow Creek gratefully accepts donations of desktop or laptop computers that are no more than 6 years old.
- Computers are refurbished and given to families, individuals, and organizations in need.
- Donations of keyboards, mice, cables, and flat-panel monitors are also welcomed (CRT monitors not accepted).
- Temporarily we are not accepting donations because we are moving locations! Please check back for further updates soon.
- Donations of unexpired, commercially packaged food are gratefully accepted at the Care Center during regular hours of operation. Hours and location >>
- Items most needed are peanut butter, jelly, soup, cereal, tuna, rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce, macaroni & cheese, Hamburger Helper, and chili.
- Super-couponing can be a great way to fill your cart for people in need!
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”
One way to love people is to speak on their behalf. Stand up for them in difficult times. Give voice to their concerns, and make sure they are not forgotten or ignored. Willow Creek believes in learning and educating on key issues facing those in need who often do not have a voice of their own.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository has put together an easy-to-use Advocacy Center, which allows you to contact elected officials on a variety of local or national hunger-relief issues. To learn more about current legislation, proposed changes, or to contact your representatives, visit chicagosfoodbank.org.
Monthly forums help raise awareness of sex and labor trafficking in our own backyard. Learn to recognize “red flags” in your community, and how each of us can take measures to combat exploitation and slavery. Human Trafficking forums are held on the third Wednesday of each month immediately following the worship portion of the Midweek Experience at Willow's South Barrington campus. Room locations vary month to month. Please check monitors for room assignments. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join a community of volunteers who are passionate about reaching out to forgotten children. Learn about Safe Families, foster care, adoption, and numerous other ways you can support the vulnerable child in our community. Safe Families, Foster and Adoption Support Gatherings are held once a month. For more information, contact email@example.com.
To learn more about Compassion & Justice issues, visit our resource page.
“Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”