Monday, November 14, 2022 

CAIRO—For the sixth year in a row, Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza, together with LiUNA Laborers’ Local 773, coordinated the donation of frozen turkeys and fixings for side dishes for Thanksgiving to families in Cairo. 

“I come to Southern Illinois throughout the year, several times. But this event is extra special because I get to meet so many residents who are facing hard times, and make sure they know they aren’t alone. They aren’t forgotten, I have their back,” said Comptroller Mendoza.  

The Comptroller’s staff also donated rice, beans and cookies along with the turkeys to the Cairo Women’s Shelter. The domestic-violence shelter supports residents of Massac, Alexander, Pulaski, Pope, Hardin and Union counties. It serves around 400 clients on an annual basis.   

“We are so grateful that every year the Comptroller remembers our area and our clients and knows that we are going to be good stewards of the things she provides for us. Our clients appreciate her thinking of us,” said Jeannine Woods, Executive Director of the Cairo Women’s Shelter, which accepts financial and non-perishable food donations throughout the year. 

Sherrie Crabb is the CEO of Arrowleaf, the human-service organization based in Cairo that offers over 30 programs in the southern seven counties of the state, including a food pantry.  

Arrowleaf was an organizer of the event and the site of the turkey giveaway. It identified area families in need of the turkey donations and helped coordinate transportation. Arrowleaf also offered new shoes, coats and backpacks for students. Crabb said the need for nutritious food is especially high in this part of the state, which is why Arrowleaf offers the food pantry that is open 40 hours a week. 

“We’re so thankful that the Comptroller continues to come to Cairo,” said Crabb. “She’s a familiar face, and she’s very much welcomed in our community because residents see her consistently contribute, and that she’s interested in them and what’s going on here. I think that means a lot to people who live in this community.”  

Jerry Womick is Business Manager of LiUNA Laborers’ Local 773, as well as Treasurer for The Laborers Care (TLC) Foundation. In recent years, the groups have given out nearly 2 million pounds of fresh produce, dairy and meat to residents of Southern Illinois, where many face food insecurity and were especially hit hard by the pandemic.  

This is Laborers’ Local 773’s fourth year fundraising for the 150 turkeys and 600 cans of vegetables given to Cairo residents. “Alexander County is one of the poorest counties in our state, and not only that, it’s also a food desert,” said Womick. “To be able to come out and provide some of the basics for Thanksgiving dinner – it makes perfect sense. We’re happy to have the ability to help and do our part.”  

Angela Jones is the General Manager of Krispy Kreme in Marion, which provided boxes of donuts to go along with the Thanksgiving meals. “We like to give back to the community,” said Jones. “It’s good to help and give back to others.” Krispy Kreme also provides help with various fundraisers on a regular basis. 

Thomas Simpson, Mayor of Cairo, was on hand to help pass out the donuts and greet residents. He said it’s heartening to see government officials take interest in Cairo and its redevelopment. “It means a lot to me," said Mayor Simpson. “My goal has been to change the outlook and opinions of people here, and let people know things are not the way they used to be in the past, and this is a different time.” 

Cairo is due for the major redevelopment of the Alexander-Cairo Port District, part of the state’s Rebuild Illinois capital plan. The Comptroller has pledged to expedite state funds to the public-private partnership for the river port at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The project is set to create several hundred jobs in the region and redevelop a bustling port of international trade. 

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, was also on the scene to greet residents and help hand out the turkeys and bags of food. “We’re hopeful that brighter days are ahead for Southern Illinois, especially with some of the investments we’re expecting to see over the next several years.” 

“You see our friends in labor, the Comptroller, the Mayor and other government officials coming together for the betterment of our community. To show our support – especially during the holiday season – it really means a lot to the citizens here to see us all working together," said Rep. Windhorst. State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, has been a partner with Mendoza on this event from the beginning, and helped arrange the donuts, though he was called out of town Monday. 

“Southern Illinois and Cairo are due for better days ahead, that’s for sure. If the state keeps its promises and we all keep pulling together, I am optimistic that the economy here will soon see the jumpstart it needs to better serve the wonderful people who live here,” said Comptroller Mendoza.