Chester, Inc. donates trucks of food to Hilltop Neighborhood House Food Pantry

Chester, Inc. donates trucks of food to Hilltop Neighborhood House Food Pantry

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on everyone, but especially organizations that are committed to helping out the neediest in their communities such as Valparaiso’s Hilltop Neighborhood House. Well known in the area as a childcare center dedicated to empowering families, they also operate a food pantry that serves anywhere from 180-300 clients a week. The pandemic increased demand and keeping their shelves stocked has been difficult. 

“The food goes out as quickly as it comes in,” said Jennifer Wright, President and CEO of Hilltop. “We serve all of Valparaiso, however, about 85% of our clients have no cars. They walk or take the bus. This means the food needs to be light enough to carry by hand when walking, riding the bus, or even on a bike.” 

Those on foot need to visit the pantry more than once to keep their families fed, and Hilltop strives to accommodate them in every way they can. 

“Smaller portions are needed so that multiple trips can be made, so now our clients can come once per week,” Wright said. “We were doing once a month, but the need for more food was clear before and after the pandemic started.” 

After hearing about Hilltop’s situation and understanding just how essential their mission is even when there is no pandemic raging, Chester, Inc. decided to step in and help out. 

“We decided to assist those supplying food and materials to those who were not only affected by the pandemic but those who were generally in need,” said Rich Shields, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Chester, Inc. “Hilltop is a worthy organization to assist thanks to the way they empower and focus on children as well as local families. The works and programs they’re providing are immense.” 

Chester, Inc. has deep roots in the Valparaiso community that go back to the 1940s, so they understand the necessity of local businesses reaching out to aid nonprofits such as Hilltop. They gave Wright a call and worked out a strategy to deliver a truck bed full of food – and they are not done yet. 

“We just didn’t have a big enough vehicle at the time to deliver everything at once,” Shields said. “We are steadily working with Jennifer and her team at Hilltop to bring as many applicable food products as possible to assist the families in need during this time.” 

Chester, Inc. is not the only local business jumping to help Hilltop, and they are calling on even more to take the time to deliver anything they can to help families in need. Wright noted that the outpouring of support is simply what she has come to expect from the city. 

“This is who Valparaiso is, we live in one of the most giving and generous cities in the entire state,” she said. “We see time, talent, and treasure come our way when we call out and ask for support. Valparaiso has its challenges, just like any city. In a perfect world, there would be no need for any food pantry, but until that world comes along, you can’t beat living in a place like Valparaiso where local businesses like Chester reach out to help, without ever being asked.” 

Any individual or business looking to get involved can make a food donation Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until 4 p.m. on Thursday. Otherwise, call 219-477-4222 (their childcare building right next door) and Hilltop can arrange a drop-off time that works for everyone. 

“We don’t have a phone in the pantry, it’s all food in there,” Wright said. “Every dollar donated goes to support the program. We built that building and it was paid off the day we cut the ribbon at the dedication all because of the generous people and businesses in Valparaiso. We call it the house that love built.” 

For more information about Chester, Inc., visit