New site for Milan Christian Food Pantry ‘a gift from God,’ generosity of others

The Milan Christian Food Pantry will move to this new location at 225 E. 1st St. in early 2020. Donated by longtime Milan attorney Ken Collinson, the building's interior has been extensively remodeled and the exterior will soon receive new siding. (Provided photo)

MILAN — “A wonderful gift from God.”

That’s how Alice Dobbeleare describes the soon-to-be new location for the Milan Christian Food Pantry.

For five years the pantry — a joint venture of five area churches, including St. Ambrose Parish in Milan and St. Patrick Parish, Andalusia — has operated out of rented space at 128 W. Fourth St. that was once a jewelry store.

But with more than 300 families every month finding food assistance at the pantry, the operation was cramped with patrons and volunteers alike “constantly bumping into one another,” said Dobbeleare, who serves on the pantry’s board of directors.

Then came word last winter that Ken Collinson, a retired longtime attorney in the community, wished to donate his former law office building at 225 E. 1st St. — along Highway 67 just a block away from St. Ambrose Church — to the pantry.

“It’s very benevolent of him to do that,” said Dobbeleare, who convinced other board members that, while the building would need extensive remodeling, they would be wise to accept the gift.

Jody Kerres, food coordinator at the Milan Christian Food Pantry, is helped by her grandson, Kaleix Lucas, as she assists in the renovation of the basement at the new location. (Provided photo)

And with help from God, whose hand continued to move through volunteer labor and surprise discounts or donations of goods and services, the gift is expected to be opened in January.


“I am impressed and amazed at how this whole thing transpired,” said Father Charles Klamut, pastor of the parishes in Milan and Andalusia. He especially credited the work of Alice Dobbeleare, who served as project manager, and her husband Rick, who with a friend from St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island did much of the needed renovation, including electrical work. A “phenomenal carpenter” helped remove the walls in four offices to open up a space that is 50 percent larger than the present location — with a basement offering even more space.

“The need is never going to go away,” said Rick.

He and Alice listed a series of “positive stuff” that has occurred to prepare the property for its new purpose, including the Village of Milan waiving some fees and taking care of a drainage issue. A hardware store donated the use of a hydraulic post-hole digger to install a ramp, a new outdoor sign was donated, insulation was offered at cost with no labor charge, and the manager of the neighboring Hardee’s worked with the pantry to resolve parking issues.

Funding for the renovation is being provided by a grant from the Grant and Virginia Brissman Foundation, which for years has covered the pantry’s $550 monthly rent. But since the pantry owns the new property and rent will not be necessary, the foundation forwarded several years worth of payments to finance the renovation.


The pantry is open from 9 to 11 a.m. on Mondays and from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays. The various sponsoring churches — which also include Trinity United Methodist, St. Matthew Lutheran, and First Presbyterian, all in Milan — take weekly turns supplying volunteers.

Alice Dobbeleare said that, along with the physical move in early 2020, there will be changes to the pantry’s operation as well.  It will become a “choice pantry,” she said, meaning volunteers will need to be re-trained. New computers will offer electronic check-in and record keeping through the RiverBend food program.

The Dobbeleares said it is a blessing to work with the other churches in serving the area’s needy. Asked why they volunteer, Alice had a simple answer.

“It’s just the right thing to do, to give back.”

Those wishing to volunteer or financially assist the Milan Christian Food Pantry are invited to contact the Dobbeleares at (309) 314-6722, by email at, or write Milan Christian Food Pantry, PO Box 333, Milan IL 61264.


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