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Even in Difficult Times, Kendall Food Pantry Volunteers Focused on Mission

Jun 23, 2016 12:46PM ● Published by Shannon Antinori

Photo courtesy of the Kendall County Food Pantry Facebook page.

The Kendall County Food Pantry has seen some dark days since volunteers first came forward with allegations of missing funds more than a month ago. 

But even after the sudden death of longtime former Excecutive Director Maria Spaeth this week, the pantry is moving forward and working to fulfill its mission of feeding Kendall County residents in need, said volunteer Director of Operations Rick Bill.

Spaeth, 52, was pronounced dead Tuesday at Valley West Hospital in Sandwich.
Bill said her death has hit pantry volunteers hard. 

"It's very emotional," he said. "Even though it's been kind of dark this last month, we wouldn't have any of this without Maria," Bill said. "She was our leader, an inspiration."

The alleged theft and "suspicious transactions," totaling a reported $200,000, were reported May 26, prompting Yorkville Police to serve search warrants at the pantry and at a home in Kendall County on June 1. Spaeth and her husband, Ken, who served as treasurer, resigned from their roles at the pantry on June 7. 

Bill called the turmoil a double-edged sword, saying it's prompted some residents to come forward with donations, while others may be concerned about how their donations will be spent. 

"We are getting some donations from people who really know what our need is," said Bill.

The pantry distributes food to about 250 families every Thursday, serving a total of around 7,000 people each month, he added.

"We're hoping people understand what we're doing -- the need is great," Bill said.

As for the impact the investigation has had on pantry finances, Bill said, "For a while there, we were playing it day by day." But Bill assured residents that pantry volunteers intend to keep serving the community as the investigation continues.

"We want to do what I believe God called us to do," said Bill, "No client has been shortchanged."

The pantry is entirely volunteer run and funded by donations. He said it takes about 50 volunteers to run each Thursday's food distribution. Bill said the community can rest easy that donations to the pantry will go toward helping feed those in need.

"I can say with assurance that the things that have happened in the past have been corrected," he said, adding that he is working with volunteers and the board of directors to make the pantry's finances transparent. 

Bill said his goal is to see to it that, once again, 98 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to clients.

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