Working Together to Provide Food for the Undocumented in Rantoul, IL

Midwest  | January 23, 2021
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A woman in Rantoul, IL smiles for the camera after receiving a touching care package from Tzu Chi Midwest. Photo/Yue Ma

Written by Yue Ma
Translated by Karen Chen
Edited by Diana Chang and Dilber Shatursun

Two hours beyond the hustle and bustle of Chicago lies a town called Rantoul. To Tzu Chi volunteers who visited in October 2020, streets there painted a portrait that was reflective of the pandemic: homes, run down and withered, on both sides of the road.

 An increasing number of Americans have either lost their jobs or been forced to work less hours since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Undocumented immigrants, many who’ve arrived in search of a better life, have been dealt perhaps more painful blows as they do not qualify for traditional forms of aid. Regardless, returning to their previous countries is still not an option. To help, Tzu Chi Midwest sought to team up with a local pastor to bring some relief.

Tzu Chi volunteers bring food, masks, and more for families in need. Photo/Yue Ma
Volunteers drive nearly two hours to the distribution event to contribute their love and care to those in need. Photo/Yue Ma

Nelson Cuevas, the Director of Cultivators and pastor of the Stone Creek Church invited church volunteers to support the community. He explained that the current situation had gradually become worse: “we provide food to the community, predominantly Latinos and migrants. We also have a daycare for their children, social services, interpretation services for them… But since COVID-19, the number of people unemployed [rose], we have more people coming because they need food.”

Volunteers greet Pastor Nelson with an elbow bump instead of a hand shake. Photo/Yue Ma

On the day of the distribution, Nelson was bringing a cart full of food to the parking lot of Cultivators’ Mission Center. Already, he could see a line of vehicles waiting to receive goods. Both church volunteers and Tzu Chi volunteers went to each vehicle that arrived to hand over their care packages. They informed the passengers of the contents, which included instant rice, instant noodle, vegetables, fruits, and masks. It also included magazines, including Tzu Chi’s Spanish and English Journals inspired by the spirit of the Jing Si Abode and the mission of Tzu Chi’s founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen.

Collective goodness is great goodness. Only with the strength of great goodness can there be peace and prosperity.

Jing Si Aphorism by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Tzu Chi volunteers also provide masks to help keep the residents safe. Photo/Yue Ma
Volunteers can see the recipient is happy to get some medical masks even when covered with a mask. Photo/Yue Ma

One woman, who is a mother, repeatedly expressed her gratitude. “[Receiving the food makes me] feel better and I feel safe about the information; yes, and about the mask, I feel safe. Thank you,” she said. She left with a bright smile and gave the volunteers the encouragement to continue following Master Cheng Yen’s teaching that “love is the strength of great goodness.”

The supplies are filled with love, giving the families in need the strength to carry on. Photo/Yue Ma

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