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Longtime Friends Oversee Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry

Patch talks with two women on a singular mission for healthy meals in healthy communities.

This week's Patch Portraits also feature and .

From the basement of First United Church of Oak Park, in a small office that was once a closet, a handful of people provide food for thousands each year.

Kathy Russell, executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, and Michele Zurakowski, operations manager, work with several full-time staff and a sizable group of volunteers.

Earlier: .

"We're really two sides of the same coin," said Zurakowski, about longtime friend and colleague Russell.

"Michele and I are partners in this organization," said Russell. "We manage it together but we have very distinct roles."

Russell, as executive director, takes a bigger picture approach to the food pantry and handles most exterior issues, such as acquiring funding, food, and community outreach.

Zurakowski manages in-house affairs and developed a variety of programs, such as bringing in a nutritionist, providing cooking classes, and implementing a client choice food program where guests get to pick what they want to take home.

Russell and Zurakowski stress that they receive hefty assistance in the operation of the pantry.  

"Our community is such a big part of the food pantry," said Russell. "We work together as a community to provide hunger relief."

Susan Lucci August 25, 2011 at 10:48 PM
This dynamic duo is truly magnificent. We are privileged to have them relieving hunger in our community. Brava!

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