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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

North Center’s Common Pantry Building New Headquarters On Lincoln Avenue Next Year

The new building at 3900-10 N. Lincoln Ave. is a blank slate for the organization to carry on its mission, according to the nonprofit's leaders.

Volunteers and staff organizing food at Common Pantry's longtime home at Epiphany United Church of Christ.
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NORTH CENTER — Common Pantry is moving to a building of its own next year.  

The nonprofit food pantry purchased the building at 3900-10 N. Lincoln Ave., about three blocks away from its current home inside Epiphany United Church of Christ. 

C’est Bien Thai will continue operating at Lincoln Avenue and Common Pantry is in the process of selecting an architect to build out the space for its new headquarters. The nonprofit expects to move in early next year. 

“Owning a building of our own is transformative for Common Pantry, which has been a mainstay, ingrained in the fabric of the North Center neighborhood for decades,” said Margaret O’Conor, Common Pantry’s executive director. “We are deeply grateful to our community for all the support we’ve received over the years, and to our local and state elected officials for making this incredible step forward a reality for us.” 

Elected officials including state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, State Rep. Ann Williams and Ald. Matt Martin (47th) all supported the organization’s effort to purchase the building. 

“Margaret and the board of Common Pantry keep coming up with new and creative ways to fight food insecurity,” Martin said. “I can’t wait to see what they will come up with as they put their new space to use.”

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Common Pantry purchased the building at 3900-10 N. Lincoln Ave. from the owner of Wasabi Café, which is about three blocks away from its current home. The nonprofit plans to relocate its operations there in 2022.

The nonprofit food pantry has been offering assistance to North Siders experiencing hunger and food insecurity since 1967. Common Pantry also provides housing assistance, legal referrals, support for people experiencing homelessness and job search help.

The new building is a blank slate for the nonprofit to carry on its mission and a dream many years in the making, Board President David Brown said. IFF, an agency that provides loans, consulting and development support to mission-driven nonprofits, is offering development assistance and project financing for the new building.  

“It was critical to Common Pantry leaders that we stay in the neighborhood we have called home for so long, and we are thrilled this opportunity presented itself,” Brown said. “Our community has been so supportive of Common Pantry’s mission and we know we can count on them for help as we work to make the new space something everyone can be proud of.” 

The nonprofit will benefit from a larger space as well as better access to public transit, ADA-accessible entrances and even greater visibility by being located a major thoroughfare in the community.

“After decades of sharing our space with Common Pantry, Epiphany considers them as family and our missions of service are intertwined,” said Rev. Kevin McLemore, Epiphany’s pastor. “We are thrilled and look forward to continuing to work with them throughout this new beginning.”

Food banks will be responding to the COVID-19 crisis for months and likely years to come, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Food costs are likely to rise, and food banks are projected to see a 50 percent reduction in USDA food in this year without further action, the Depository found. 

Like many other food pantries in the city, Common Pantry has seen requests for help skyrocket during the pandemic.

The organization shifted its emergency food distributions to a drive-thru format in the past year. It also has launched initiatives such as the “I Am Your Neighbor” program, which allows anyone ordering take-out or delivery from partnering restaurants to pick up the tab for neighbors struggling financially during the pandemic.   

With only three paid employees, Common Pantry relies on volunteers for many of its day-to-day operations, including food distribution, organizing food drives and delivering meals to homebound seniors. One local neighbor even bakes fresh loaves of bread from his own grain for a weekly hot lunch, leaders said.

Volunteers logged more than 5,700 hours helping the nonprofit in 2020.  

Common Pantry will host its 10th “I Am Your Neighbor” party on Oct. 1, the organization’s largest fundraiser and community celebration. For the latest updates on this event visit the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

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