DIXON – When Jennifer Cantwell left an abusive relationship 18 years ago, she didn’t know where she and her two sons would get their next meal.
But places like the United Way of Lee County helped the 45-year-old Sterling resident back on her feet, and put meals on the table for Aric and Billy.
On Thursday, she was returning the favor.
Cantwell and nearly 200 others poured into the east wing at Sauk Valley Community College to pack 15,000 oatmeal meals for the agency’s new campaign, United to End Hunger.
Each meal will feed four, and they will be distributed to nine entities: the Dixon Food Pantry, YWCA of Sauk Valley, Team Turf Youth Center in Amboy, Buddy Bags of Dixon, the Dixon PADS Shelter, Sinnissippi Group Recovery Home, First Baptist Church in Amboy and The Sauk Valley Community College Food Bank.
Cantwell, who works at the YWCA, now helps others similar situations. She’s giving back because of the reality she faced nearly two decades ago.
“I have to give back, because this was given to me. It’s just amazing to see all of these people here,” Cantwell said. “I’ve always been a helper. When this event came up, I just had to be there.”
Thursday, the agency also announced its annual fund-raising goal, $415,000, of which about $40,000 already has been raised.
“The amount of support is amazing,” Executive Director Keri Olson said. “We can absolutely attain our goal.”
HOW TO DONATE