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5th Ward grocery expands food pantry

“I did it.”

Those three words, from an ETHS graduate, convinced Clarence Weaver that he and his wife Wendy were doing the right thing, in the right place.

Eight years ago, the Weavers left the corporate world to open a community grocery store at Church and Dodge, across from Evanston Township High School.

C&W Market is now a neighborhood institution (complete with an ice cream parlor), but at the start, the Weavers weren’t sure it would work out.

Clarence Weaver recalled one customer, an ETHS student, who seemed to be heading nowhere in life. Weaver urged him to stay in school, and get his diploma.

And then, one day, Weaver saw the young man dashing down the street, graduation gown in his arms.

“I did it!” the youngster proclaimed.

“That,” Clarence Weaver said, “defined the reason we needed to be here.”

Another reason, helping the entire 5th Ward community.

The Weavers, along with Mayor Daniel Biss, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), and other volunteers cut the ribbon Saturday afternoon, for expansion of C&W Market’s food pantry.

C&W has been giving away food and staples on Saturdays since COVID-19 began, in March, 2020. The pandemic was economically devastating for many.

“We started out with 25 families” at the pantry, Wendy Weaver explained, “and now we’re at 220.”

A grant from the Evanston Rotary Club will help the Weavers buy additional food for those who are hungry. Donated refrigerators, freezers and shelves allow storage and distribution, along with the ability to help those in immediate need, who might not be able to wait until the regular Saturday pantry hours.

Gene Servillo, of the Evanston Rotary Club, explained that fighting food insecurity is the local club’s centennial year project, so the membership decided to work with the Weavers, and their nonprofit C&W Foundation.

Students from Northwestern University’s Civic Engagement Certificate Program were also invovled with planning the expansion.

NU Civic Engagement students (L to R): Anna Witcoff, Tanya Bhargava, Sydney Goldstein.

Anna Witcoff, a NU sophomore, called it “an amazing experience.”

“It’s easy to get trapped in the Northwestern bubble,” she added, just staying on campus and not realizing there are many people still in need, just a couple of miles away.

Mayor Biss called the pantry expansion “really inspiring,” and said the role of so many who made it possible is “such a statement of what our community needs.”

In fact, the Weavers repeatedly thanked volunteers who have worked at the pantry since COVID began, as well as those who made pantry expansion a reality.

So now, the three key words are not “I did it,” but “We did it!”

For more information on the C&W Foundation, go to cwmarketandicecreamparlor.com.

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