WASHINGTON PARK — The line outside the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House's Continuum of Life Building stretched down the block.
It didn't matter that it was cold. Drizzling rain and light snow fell on those who came earlier this week to get food donated from members of the Illinois State Bar Association.
"Because of the concern and action of the bar association, many people who didn't know where their next meal was coming from received some food. This lets the people know there are people out here who care about them and stand ready to help," said Doreen Hoosman, treasurer of Lessie Bates.
John Thies, president of the Illinois Bar Association, and leaders of the St. Clair and Madison county bar associations came to the Washington Park facility and to see firsthand how the money they are raising is feeding the hungry.
Thies said "Illinois Lawyers Feeding Illinois" is a food and fundraising drive among law firms and legal organizations in Illinois. Their goal, Thies said, is to provide one million meals to help approximately 1.9 million Illinoisans who are deemed hungry.
"One in four children are food-insecure," he said. "Hunger is a serious issue."
The campaign, which is chaired by Thies' wife, Terry, began in November. The goal was to raise enough money to provide one million meals by March 1. According to the campaign's website, www.lawyersfeedingil.org, that goal was met Friday afternoon.
"We want to raise awareness of the issue of hunger. We have 32,000 members that could make a difference and lessen the suffering for the people of Illinois," Thies said. "We're trying to get more than half of those who are hungry one meal. One meal doesn't sound like a lot. It helps," Thies said.
David Anderson, associate executive director of ISBA, looking around at the long line of people. "It strikes you right in the gut," he said. "You don't realize how great the need is because it is invisible -- unless you stop and look for it."
Shira Truitt, who has law offices in St. Louis and Belleville, said "It makes me feel good to be a part of something that can provide tangible and real assistance to people. People need help. And when we have a downturn in the economy, people tend to step up and give help. That makes me feel real good."
Newly elected St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot was in attendance. He said, "obviously there is great need here. People are standing in the cold and snow to pick up food."
Mary Dotts, a senior citizen, said she came to Lessie Bates because she's on a fixed income. She said her medical insurance and other bills take up much of her money.
"This helps me and others in the community who, like me, are trying to live. I am very thankful to the lawyers and others who care enough to help."
Another resident, Leon O'Neal, said, "It means a lot to me to be able to get some help with food. I am on a fixed income. What they are doing for the people is real, real positive and I thank them for their assistance."
"These are difficult times financially for many Illinois families and no one should go hungry because they lack the resources to put food on the table," Thies said. "We believe our efforts will call attention to the hunger problem as well as enable us to collect food and financial donations that will help to feed families and individuals who are in need."
Feeding Illinois is a coalition of individual Feeding America food banks that provide food to 1,885 agencies, food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters that feed four million residents across the state. Feeding Illinois is made up of Central and Eastern Illinois Foodbank, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Peoria Area Food Bank, River Bend Food Bank, St. Louis Area Food Bank, and Tri-State Food Bank.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.