LAKEVIEW — As Donald Trump was sworn in as president Friday, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) was sorting cherry tomatoes.
A group of politicians skipped the inauguration — including U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.). Quigley decided to instead spend his Friday morning at Lakeview Pantry, 3945 N. Sheridan Road as a volunteer.
It was a good reminder of the need that Quigley and the Lakeview Pantry only expect to grow over the next four years.
"You need to be in the absolute thick of it to reinforce just how bad things are for certain people and what this all means," Quigley said. "It's life and death."
Lakeview Pantry fed 8,200 people last year in Lakeview, Uptown, Lincoln Park and North Center and offers self-help programs and counseling. Earlier this month, its boundaries expanded north to Wilson Avenue, as the pantry's new permanent home at 3945 N. Sheridan Road created an increased capacity for food distribution.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (center) volunteered at Lakeview Pantry Friday instead of attending the inauguration of President Donald Trump. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
On Friday, dozens lined up to receive canned goods, dairy products, eggs, produce and other supplies donated from companies like Trader Joe's, SNAP Kitchen and Tyson Foods. At the end of the grocery line are bouquets of flowers waiting to go home.
"You look at their zip codes, and they're the same as Wrigley Field. They're right here, the need is right here," Quigley said. "Some things shouldn't surprise you, but then it surprises you that they do."
While Lakeview Pantry doesn't rely on federal or state funding, executive director Kellie O'Connell said she expects an influx of clients with any cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
And while individual donations make up 80 percent of the pantry's $4.6 million budget, "we know we're going to need increased support from private donors to meet the need that's going to emerge from that government cutting," O'Connell said.
Volunteers circle up at Lakeview Pantry before clients arrive to receive bags of groceries and fresh produce. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
On Friday, dozens of Democrats skipped the inauguration ceremony for President Donald Trump. Some, like U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), volunteered instead. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Rough drafts of federal budget proposals under Trump include dramatic cuts, increased military spending and tax cuts, and "unless all you want to do is raise the debt ceiling, something's got to give," Quigley said. "And my preliminary concern is it's going to be programs that help people."
Since Trump's election, Quigley said he's heard from constituents who are "truly upset and worried and panicked at where our country is going and what it means."
Gaby Montoya, 41, is among them. While she's seen Quigley five times, Friday was the first time she felt bold enough to ask for a photo with the representative.
Lakeview resident Gaby Montoya volunteers at Lakeview Pantry a couple mornings each week while her children are at school. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
"I agree with him, one hundred percent," Montoya said of Quigley's decision to not attend Friday's inauguration. "Every morning, I watch the news after my kids go to school. Today, I turn off the TV and put Pandora on my telephone instead."
Montoya, who has volunteered at the pantry for five years, said she was willing to give Trump a chance until he made headlines for mocking a disabled reporter.
"He lost my respect that day," Montoya said.
Since the November election, Lakeview Pantry has seen a 50 percent increase in people coming to its volunteer orientation, O'Connell said. On Nov. 9 alone, a dozen people walked in and asked to be put to work.
"It just makes me feel better, seeing there's so many other people out there who care," Quigley said. "It reminds you of why we do this job."
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