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The U.S. Coast Guard, stationed at Wilmette Harbor, remains on duty during the government shutdown as local businesses like Zier’s Prime Meats & Poultry look to help. Eric DeGrechie/22nd Century Media
Owner Denise Zier (left) and her daughter, Elizabeth, prepare food gift cards. Hilary Anderson/22nd Century Media
Cars are shown in the parking lot outside the U.S. Coast Guard building Saturday, Jan. 19, at Wilmette Harbor. Eric DeGrechie/22nd Century Media
Hilary Anderson, Freelance Reporter
9:12 am CST January 21, 2019

Wilmette residents, businesses and churches want to help.

They are looking for ways to assist those tangibly affected by the government shutdown.

One group is the United States Coast Guard, who has members on duty at Wilmette Harbor 24/7.

“The Coast Guard and TSA are under Homeland Security and are not exempt,” said Denise Zeir, longtime Wilmette resident and owner of Wilmette’s Zier’s Meat and Poultry. “The Coast Guard is the only group in the U.S. military that is not exempt.”

When the government shutdown began on Dec. 22, Zier, along with her daughter, Elizabeth, immediately found ways to help. Initially, they learned the Wilmette Coast Guard staff, which consists of about 25 people, hoped the situation would change and asked everyone to wait until Jan. 15 when their next paycheck was due. Unfortunately, that money never came in.

The situation is made even more difficult because the Coast Guard has strict rules about accepting donations of any kind from the public.

“They also were very humble and hopeful,” Zier said. “I met with the officers on duty at the Wilmette Harbor. Some residents also talked with them.”

Their rules include the following:

Each Coast Guard officer is only allowed to receive a food gift card of up to $20 per occasion — from Jewel, Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, Grand Store. They can receive no more than up to $50 in food gift cards on the second occasion. That includes the first $20.

The entire staff cannot receive more than $200 of food for any one-time event.

Restaurants may donate food on one day but it cannot be a full meal. The same restaurant may donate similar food the next day for the next shift on duty but again it cannot be a full meal.

All donations must be accompanied by the name and address of the donor so the donations can be acknowledged.

The Coast Guard cannot accept donations from any potential businesses or groups that might be considered a conflict of interest.

“We suggest if anyone wants to drop something off, they call and advise us they are coming,” Officer Michael Desormeaux said. “Sometimes our gates are locked and we would not want food to go to waste.”

Since Zier’s first visit to the Coast Guard station, Pastor David VanBrakle, Wilmette Community Church began contacting parishioners and pastors from other churches about ways to help.

He discovered there is another option, the nonprofit Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, which is for Coast Guard members but not affiliated with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Several of the churches and faith organizations responding decided they will collect donations and send them to the Chief Petty Officers Association and earmark the monetary donations for the Wilmette Coast Guard staff,” Pastor VanBrakle said. “The U.S.O. (Great Lakes) also is collecting donations and will bring and distribute those earmarked for the Coast Guard at Wilmette Harbor but individuals must contact them on their own.”

Some of the churches and faith organizations accepting donations for the Coast Guard include the Community Church of Wilmette, First Presbyterian Church, First Congregational Church, Sukkat Shalom and the Muslim Community Center of Morton Grove. 

Julie Yusim, executive director of the Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, began contacting Wilmette/Kenilworth businesses also about ways to assist.

Barb Young, who oversees the Wilmette Food Pantry located at Trinity United Methodist Church, Lake and Wilmette Avenues, said anyone from the area who needs food is welcome.

“We have plenty of food from generous businesses including Jewel in Plaza del Lago,” Young said. “We now have different kinds of meat that are fresh and put in our freezer for whomever needs it. There also is plenty of dairy.”

The Wilmette Food Pantry is open every Tuesday from about 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,” said Young. “I usually am there early so if someone needs to come sooner, they probably can get in.”

Zier said she will accept food gift cards from those who want to donate to the Coast Guard staff. Zier also said she will deliver them to the Wilmette Harbor Coast Guard station.

“The food cards can be from any food store,” she said. “I will make food gift cards available from our store as well.”

HEART Certified Auto Care, with locations in Wilmette and Northbrook, is offering free oil changes to all federal employees during the government shutdown. Employees just need to show government identification. 

New Trier Township residents who are affected by the government shutdown as well as members of the Wilmette Harbor Coast Guard also have another option.

Gail Schnitzer Eisenberg, who is a New Trier Township trustee, tells Coast Guard members and other community residents who are affected by the government shutdown to contact the New township to obtain food or emergency financial aid. 

“We do recognize those who work in the Township may also need service during this trying period,” Eisenberg said. “An intake appointment must be arranged with the township social worker.”

For more information contact the Chief Petty Officer Association (nonprofit and not affiliated with the U.S. Coast Guard) at www.uscgcpoa.org. Contact Jeanne Winstead Rosser, New Trier Township social worker, at (847) 446-8201 or email: jwinstedrosser@newtriertownship.com.