About Us

The Self Help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines is an independent, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors. It runs with a staff of 70 volunteers and two part-time employees serving as the Executive Director and Bookkeeper. The Pantry serves more than 900 households - all in the city of Des Plaines or with children in Des Plaines public schools - with free food and clothing.

Did You Know...

In April 2022, the Pantry served 218 households. In April 2023, 381 households and in April 2024, 516 households. More of our neighbors are in need. With your help, we rise to meet them.

Our Supporters

Local schools, churches, businesses, fraternal organizations, individuals and the City of Des Plaines provide the majority of food, clothing, and financial support to the Pantry. The Pantry’s trademark “Red Barrels” can be seen in about 50 locations around town and serve as a convenient drop-off point to donate non-perishable food for those in need. Our Red Barrels also serve to remind us of the tremendous support our community provides to those in need.

Board of Directors & Staff

Denise Rodd, President
Rev. Jon Gilbert Martinez, Vice President
Dorothea Stoll, Treasurer
Joan Bucaro-Lopez, Secretary
Holly Wilson, Corresponding Secretary
Salima Ali, Member
Lori A. Ellerman,  Member
Debbie Walusiak, Executive Director
Jana Haas, Bookkeeper

Our History  

In 1971, the Women’s Fellowship Circle of the First Congregational Church of Des Plaines established the Self- Help Closet & Pantry to offer food, clothing and small household items to help families of migrant workers adjust to life in this area. A small group of about ten women operated the Pantry in the church basement for several years. In 1987, the Pantry established itself as an independent, not-for-profit organization. As the client base increased, the Pantry has moved its facility several times to the present location at 769 Holiday Lane in Des Plaines.

Des Plaines Self Help Closet and Pantry 50th Anniversary (720).mp4

The Story of the Self-Help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines

This film by Wendy Ellis and Paul Meincke tells the story of the early beginnings of the Pantry in 1971 and how it evolved into an independent organization. To this day, the organization maintains the early founders' mission to help neighbors in need.

Food Pantry solicitors on corner - NOT US

Occasionally you will see people wearing FOOD PANTRY vests soliciting donations from drivers at Lee and Oakton and other busy intersections. The Self-Help Closet and Pantry of Des Plaines is not related to these groups - our volunteers will never be standing on street corners soliciting donations. While these groups might be collecting donations for other pantries, our Pantry is not in their service areas and we do not receive the donations.