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.