“A food pantry in Pilsen has been operating out of a former church for the last two years.
“The founder is hoping to buy the building but says she is running into obstacles with the Chicago Archdiocese.
“For the last two years, the pantry has been operating out of a former Catholic church.
“Evelyn Figueroa is one of the founders of the Pilsen Food Pantry and is a family doctor in the neighborhood. She originally ran the pantry from her health clinic. And in 2020, relocated inside former Holy Trinity Croatian Church.
“‘We went from a 600 sf space to a floor that was over 3,000 sf. So it really gave us the space to grow into the organization that we wanted to become,’ said Figueroa
“Figueroa says she wants to buy the property in hopes of expanding their services. The pantry even raised money to purchase the building and made an offer. But now she says the problem has been communicating with the Archdiocese of Chicago. The last time she heard from an Archdiocese representative was in August 2021 where she said she was told she could expect a counter offer.
“‘We submitted a written outline, a business plan of what we wanted to do with all of the space and its wasn’t indicated to us that there was something afoul with what we had submitted. So we were handed keys two months later, which to me was a verbal agreement that we would be able to move forward with leasing to own the property and then a couple months later ran into a lot of snags with our representative of the Archdiocese,’ said Figueroa
“Pilsen Food Pantry is open five days a week serving about 350 people weekly. We’re told losing this space would mean they wouldn’t be able to operate in the capacity they do.
“‘I think it would have a heavy blow on the community,” said Steve Wiley
“We meet with Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago to learn more about the challenges organizations say they face when wanting to purchase a closed church from the Archdiocese.
“‘We’ve found that lately, especially with the closure of so many churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s portfolio, that its even more challenging. Its almost like the community versus a developer often times,’ said Miller.
“In recent years, Miller says the organization found more than 70 church closures, many without landmark status. Without landmark status, developers can essentially do what they want with the property.
“‘Sometimes the historic building is given to a developer, or sold to a developer and the developer demolishes the building. We’ve seen this numerous times, especially with the Archdiocese in recent years. Its tragic because its really pulverizes the story,’ said Miller.” (Hernandez, WTTW Chicago, 8/27/22)
Watch the full story at WTTW Chicago
Pilsen Pantry in Former Church Faces Challenges, Joanna Hernandez, WTTW Chicago, 8/27/22