CHICAGO — A heavily used food pantry in East Pilsen has started a petition to encourage the Archdiocese of Chicago to consider the pantry’s offer to buy the old church where the pantry operates.

The founder and director of the pantry, Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, said the location is the ideal location to serve underserved residents in the community and hopes the archdiocese will meet her at the table so she can keep the pantry going.

It’s open five days a week and is a staple for residents like Juan Franco.

“This is important for me because I’ve been struggling for two years,” Franco said. “First, my son died then my son got sick.”

Since March 2020, the pantry has operated out of the former Holy Trinity Croatian Parish on South Throop Street.

Figueroa said the pantry is up to an average of 374 clients a week.

Back in February, Figueroa said she submitted a proposal to the Archdiocese of Chicago to buy the property, including the lot across the street, for about $3 million.

But she said she hasn’t heard back from anyone in months.

“They haven’t responded to us even though they promised they would respond to us,” she said.

She said she thinks the archdiocese is waiting on a better deal.

“They’ve actually gone repeatedly to the alderman and asked the alderman to please sign off on selling properties in this community to developers other than non-profits,” Figueroa said.

According to a representative for the archdiocese, it’s the parish’s decision to sell or not sell a building.

“The St. Procopius Parish has not finalized plans for the former Holy Trinity Croatian Parish campus,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “The parish will alert the food pantry when there are more specific plans and the pantry leadership will have the opportunity to discuss their interest further at that time. Since the pantry moved in at the outset of the pandemic, around March 2020, it has operated rent free and expense free at a sizeable cost to the parish. The parish has generously spent nearly $200,000 to subsidize gas, electric and water utilities, insurance and services, such as garbage pickup and maintenance.”

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Figueroa said the location is essential and limits how they operate.

“We can’t just move a mile west,” she said. “A third of our clients come by foot. It will not be accessible for them.”