Nate Kalichman, M.D., a retired psychiatrist, appreciates the importance of paying attention to brainstorms. Last May, when one such bolt of inspiration came to him in the middle of the night, he dreamed up a convenient way for Montgomery Place residents like himself to donate food to people in need.
For starters, Kalichman enlisted the help of his wife, Paula Givan, president of the Montgomery Place Residents’ Association. She secured an enthusiastic endorsement for her husband’s idea from the 14-member Resident Council.
The couple then met with Paul Zappoli, director of Dining Services at Montgomery Place, with Kalichman’s plan to put residents’ unused dining points toward donating produce and non-perishables to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Food Pantry. Affiliated with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the food pantry serves the community at the Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 South Woodlawn.
Instead of paying for meals like they would in a restaurant, Zappoli explained, residents of the life plan community located at 5550 South Shore Drive are allotted dining points covered by their monthly fee. “Because this monthly allocation for dining here is very generous, residents typically have extra points at the end of a month,” Zappoli said.
“Nate and I know other residents don’t use all of their meal points,” Givan said. “Which explains why it makes sense for residents to donate unused points.”
Now, every Thursday, Zappoli sets out a display of produce in Montgomery Place’s Café, along with a sign encouraging residents to donate unused dining credits to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Food Pantry. “People can donate as little as $5 which equals five apples or up to $50 per week,” said Kalichman, who often takes a seat near the display and encourages fellow residents to donate their points.
“Everything helps,” said Givan. “It all adds up.”
To track their donations, the cashier at the Café gives residents a receipt. And, on Thursday afternoons, a Montgomery Place employee delivers boxes filled with apples, oranges, fresh strawberries, razzberries, pineapples, asparagus, onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and other produce along with bottled juices and boxes of pasta. Most weeks net $200 to $300 worth of food for the food pantry, with the biggest weekly donation totaling $600 so far.
“Unused dining points accumulate for residents at the end of the month,” Zappoli added, “which works well because our largest donations are given to the Food Pantry around the time when they are needed most.” The end of the month is when Supplemental Nutrition Allowance Program (SNAP) recipients often deplete their food allowances. “The end of the month is when people rely more heavily on Greater Chicago Food Depository donations,” he explained.
“In Chicago, there’s such a great need,” said Kalichman. “I hope other organizations and businesses in Hyde Park will look to our example and consider donating.”
Kalichman moved to Montgomery Place from downtown Chicago in 2008. That same year, Givan, who retired from IBM, moved from Southern Indiana where she lived temporarily after 13 years spent working in Rome. The two met at Montgomery Place and married in 2012. Supporting others through food donations is a cause close to their hearts. They donated the extra food from their wedding reception, catered by La Petite Folie, to the Greater Chicago Food Depository as well. “We both believe it’s important to help and share with others,” Givan said.