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Franklin Park Herald-Journal: Congressman Quigley works ‘undercover’ in the kitchen

Sep 22, 2014
In the News

The following article appeared in Franklin Park Herald-Journal on September 22, 2014. A link to the article can be found here.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley ties off a plastic bag with a hot meal. The meal will then be deliver to a senior in the west suburbs as part of the Meals on Wheels program. | Mark Lawton/Sun-Times Media

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley ties off a plastic bag with a hot meal. The meal will then be delivered to a senior in the west suburbs as part of the Meals on Wheels program. | Mark Lawton/Sun-Times Media

By Mark Lawton 

Estevan Salgado has been volunteering at the Meals on Wheels program in Franklin Park for the last couple months. He packs cold and hot meals in the kitchen at North Park. Volunteer drivers then deliver those meals to seniors in seven west suburbs.

Sept. 22, Salgado was packing hot meals into plastic bags. He then pushed the bags over to a middle aged man wearing a burgundy shirt and tan pants who tied off the bags and transferred them to a cart.

Asked him what he thought of volunteering with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-5th of Chicago, Salgado glanced at the man next to him, then looked back.

“I didn’t know,” Salgado said, later adding he “thought they all had to wear fancy clothes.”

Since being elected in 2009, Quigley has gone “undercover” at different jobs. Those include delivering pizza, making candy at the Mars factory in Oak Park, serving food at Al & Joes in Franklin Park, and cleaning up droppings from a Rhino at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

“In Washington, DC, it’s facts and figures that’s important,” Quigley said. “What I learned is you have to get into the weeds and details. A lot of that nuance doesn’t filter up. What does it mean to a person to have a job? Is transportation a problem or health issues?”

Today it’s learning about the Meals on Wheels program, which is organized by the Community Nutrition Network and Senior Services Association.

Debbie Dolce, director of operations for the 22 programs in suburban Cook County — half deliveries and half group meals — is hoping to get Quigley’s support in reauthorizing the Older Americans Act and perhaps getting an increase in the funding. Federal money for its meal programs in Illinois has fallen 5.3 percent since 2009, according to Meals on Wheels website.

Locally, Meals on Wheels delivers 150 meals a day on weekdays plus drops off weekend meals. Volunteers deliver to unincorporated Leyden Township, Elmwood Park, River Grove, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Northlake and Rosemont.

The effort is volunteer-driven. Meals cost an average of $4.81 each, said Lupe Borjon, who manages the program at North Park.

For about one hour, Quigley packed slices of bread, ties off bags with containers of heated food and chatted with other volunteers. Among them was Matt Coleman of River Grove who’s been volunteering since August. Like Salgado, he was unaware he was working across a metal prep table from a congressman.

“No,” he said, laughing. “I was like, whoa!”

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