Fighting poverty and injustice so that lives are transformed and Jesus is known.
By sharing the hope and love of Christ while meeting basic needs and offering long-term solutions, we empower people toward a more stable future.
Anchored in the bedrock of its core values - dignity, hope, and transformation - the Care Center exists to “fight poverty and injustice so that lives are transformed and Jesus is known.” This mission statement is lived out in practical ways every day as the Care Center welcomes hundreds of people from every background, religion, and race. Here, shared humanity is the great equalizer and resources, encouragement, and empowerment are freely given and received.
WHERE PEOPLE ARE SEEN...
...AND HOPE IS FOUND
The Care Center is set apart by the next-level dignity that infuses every aspect of the guest experience, the hope that is offered through tangible resources and conveyed through compassionate volunteers, and the transformation that is possible as guests are empowered to utilize their gifts along with the Care Center’s resources to chart a path towards a sustainable future.
The Care Center was birthed out of the heart and vision of a church that saw beyond themselves, and it is sustained through the generosity of the Willow community who continues to uphold these values as intrinsic to who we are and how we practically demonstrate what it means to love God, love people, and change the world.
THE MOMENTS THAT MARK US
There are moments that shape our lives and alter their trajectories. Sometimes, we know and mark them clearly in the moment. A high school graduation, our first real job, the time we get down on one knee to propose, the birth of a child or grandchild. Other times, the subtlety of their significance is such that it’s only with the perspective of hindsight that we’re able to recognize what God was unfolding at the time.
For me, the first time I volunteered at the Care Center was one such moment. We were not yet located at the South Barrington campus, and I distinctly remember the shock I felt when I saw the single file line of people weaving all the way down the block, just waiting to be given a few bags of pre packaged groceries. Into my uncertainty, God deeply impressed that if I would lean into the invitation to participate in this place, these people, this profound work of compassion and justice, that he would do way more in me than he ever did through me. And he’s been proving that true in my life every day since. What about you? Whether you’ve been engaged in serving with us for decades, or just recently joined our team, whether you fuel our work with a sacrificial one-time gift, or your generous recurring giving, whether you’ve leveraged your business to host a pajama drive or donate diapers, or maybe you’re here for the very first time, just curious about who we are and how you can join us in making a difference, I’d be willing to bet that at some point along the way, you felt a stirring in your heart, an invitation to join something greater than yourself, a calling to invest your time, your talents, or your treasure, to join in the mission of fighting poverty and injustice alongside us. And for that, I wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU. One of my favorite quotes by author Doris Lessing says, “Any human anywhere will blossom in a hundred unexpected talents and capabilities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.” And that’s true for each of us, regardless of the role we play at the Care Center, the depth of our involvement, our participation as recipient or benefactor. At the Care Center, dignity and hope are the great equalizers, and all are welcome here, each with a unique contribution to make and a beautiful unfolding to tell. As we approach our 10th anniversary this June, I can’t help but reflect with awe and wonder at all that God has done here, and the promise of what he’ll continue to faithfully do in the year to come. So here’s to moments that shape our lives and alter their trajectories one intentional, and sometimes, delightfully unexpected ‘yes’ at a time.
Care Center Director
2022 BY THE NUMBERS
Hover over the numbers to learn more...
POUNDS OF FOOD
were received & distributed to families in need
served in the Care Center, contributing more than 75,000 hours of service
were sold in the Clothing Store and 105,729 pounds were donated!
by Volunteer Legal, Dental, and Optometry professionals at the Care Center
# OF VISITS
to the Care Center by guests throughout the year
for Care Center guests by mechanics volunteering their time in the C.A.R.S Ministry
Outreach events are one of the most impactful ways the Care Center supports our community and introduces guests to the Care Center and to Willow Creek Community Church. For those who may not know we exist, or who might be reluctant to walk through the doors of a church, our outreach events offer a great introduction to the Care Center. Each of our outreach events is informed by the articulated needs of our community partners, and designed with strategic and invitational next steps that encourage guests to engage with the holistic offerings of Care Center services. Here’s a taste of the ways we served our community in 2022…
In July, the South Barrington campus challenged every household to donate one backpack, with the goal of collecting 2,022 backpacks for the 2022 school year. Because of the generosity of our entire Willow community, we surpassed our goal and collected a total of 2,604 backpacks!
The Care Center was then transformed into a 3 day back-to-school event called Backpack Bash. We welcomed thousands of students through our doors to receive a new backpack, fill it with supplies, and choose a new pair of gym shoes. In addition, we provided free back-to-school haircuts as well as bouncy houses, food, activities, and fun. This was all made possible thanks to the generosity of our congregation and community partners, who all helped to serve our Care Center families in a way that far-exceeded anything we could have imagined.
backpacks gifted in 3 days!
"I have seen in a short period of time how God is faithful when we give back to him our time to serve others. My wife and I started serving at the Care Center a few months ago and since then, God has provided. I received a promotion at my job and I know that is only possible through God's grace."
Hospitality Team Volunteer
One of the ways we reflect the value of dignity is by offering birthday cakes for any guest who has a recently past or upcoming birthday. But with grocery stores ordering less overhead, our birthday cake donations have significantly decreased in recent years. In response, this year we partnered with Willow’s junior high students to engage young people while meeting a felt need. Several hundred students descended on the Care Center to help assemble 1,000 birthday cake kits, complete with cake mix, frosting, sprinkles, and all the fixings required to make a birthday cake. With these supplemental kits, we’re again able to add a level of dignity to our food store experience by offering every person a birthday cake. The level of dignity is as evident in the choice available to our guests as it is in the junior high students who assembled them, many of whom return to the Care Center throughout the year to serve, only to end up loading some of the birthday cake kits that they packed into the trunks of guests who receive them days/weeks later.
BECOME PART OF SOMEONE'S STORY. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.
MEETING CHALLENGES WITH INTENTIONALITY
Challenging times fall hard on many, and as a result, the Care Center also experienced a dramatic increase in need from our community - from job loss and healthcare cuts, to families forced out of their countries by war and violence. But if we've learned anything in the past 2 years, it's that we are stronger together.
Rising food prices, a decline in food supply, increased unemployment, and skyrocketing gas prices all posed formidable challenges in 2022. Time Magazine recently noted that, “Already, because of inflation, the typical American family has to spend $400 more per month than a year ago to buy the same goods and services”. These challenges have a disproportionate impact for low-income families, even as many of the additional resources and relief funds that were available during COVID came to an end. The Care Center, like other food pantries throughout the country, has not gone unscathed. The same inflation and supply chain issues that are impacting our guests are impacting us. In 2022, our food costs quadrupled, and with grocery stores getting more strategic about how much they order, our donations grew smaller. AND YET, our mission hasn’t changed. We are committed to continuing to provide the variety of healthy, dignifying foods that our guests have come to expect. We are tireless in our pursuit of finding new and innovative ways to partner with local vendors and donors far and wide in the provision of food for our guests. But we can’t do it alone. So whether you farm your own garden that yields extra produce, or you work for a manufacturer who just might be willing to donate those diapers or dairy products to us, or you would be willing to volunteer your time to grow new partnerships or visit local stores to pick-up donations from our existing ones, we’d love for you to join us in this ever-challenging but always-exhilarating work of defeating food insecurity.
COVID-19 brought a heightened sense of awareness for many food pantries to the lack of ethnically diverse food choices typically offered. Over the past two years, as the Care Center has seen a drastic rise in new guests, many who are refugees or immigrants from Venezuela and Ukraine, we’ve become increasingly aware of the disparity between our food selection and the large number of Hispanic, Latinx and Eastern European guests that we serve. We are passionate about better supporting our guests’ integration into the community while simultaneously respecting and valuing their cultural customs and practices, including their food preferences and choices. By providing an increased selection of cultural/ethnic foods, we hope to become a beacon for immigrants and refugees in the Chicagoland areas to not only receive nourishment, but also experience a sense of familiarity, comfort, and belonging as they tangibly experience the love of God.
Since 2013, the Care Center has been fighting poverty and injustice and serving our community right here at our South Barrington campus. In the nearly decade that we’ve been open, we’ve witnessed countless stories of hope found and lives changed.
This June, we have the opportunity to pause and mark a milestone – a decade of God’s faithfulness in and through the Willow Creek Care Center. And we hope you’ll join us to celebrate the occasion!
Join us on Sunday, June 4th, for an Open House immediately following the 9am and 11:15am services. Click here to learn more.
We can’t wait to see you there!
All gifts to the Willow Creek Care Center directly offset program expenses that serve more than 10,000 families each year, and all volunteer opportunities have a direct impact on the community. To help meet immediate needs for our families in a variety of ways, please use the buttons below to learn more and
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Join our mission to fight poverty and injustice.
Transform lives. Share the hope & love of Christ. Empower people.