Volunteers have always been at the heart of The Friendship Center, from its early days in a church basement to today’s vibrant community hub.
The Friendship Center’s roots go back to 1969, when a group of North Park Covenant Church members started a small food pantry on a couple of closet shelves. We operated out of the church for many years, until the program grew large enough to move out on its own.
Our first location was a storefront on Kedzie Avenue in North Park. In the 1990s, we obtained nonprofit status as the North Park Friendship Center. In 2005, we moved to Foster Avenue to better serve the Albany Park and North Park neighborhoods.
We opened a second location, the Lincoln Square Friendship Center, in 2013. This enabled us to expand our service area to Lincoln Square, Ravenswood and West Ridge, increase our hours of operation, and host a monthly pet food pantry, which later became a permanent program.
In 2018, the Lincoln Square Friendship Center moved a couple of blocks east to 2711 W. Lawrence Ave., with the North Park location closing soon after so we could consolidate and expand services in a larger space under the name the Friendship Center.
A former Chinese restaurant, the new Friendship Center building offered a commercial kitchen, seating area, and more square footage than any other facility in our history. We immediately began serving hot meals, and we’re glad we had the extra space to rapidly expand our capacity during COVID-19.
We continue to work closely with North Park Covenant Church, as well as a variety of other faith communities and neighborhood organizations — a network of friends and neighbors who raise the money and recruit the volunteers that make our work possible.