People to be thankful for: Itasca CEO helps put hundreds of holiday meals on families' tables

On the way to work in the first few months of the epidemic, Jason Kinander had these disturbing thoughts that he could not.

“I drove around a restaurant in the DuPage district, and I saw how many cars were in line to get food aid, and it really bothered me,” he said.

Kinander is the CEO of his family’s business in Roselle. Most of his company says he started working in the factory at the age of 16, changing bulbs and sweeping the floor. Now 55, Kinander has done a great job, but he is still the one who asks the people around him, “What can I do to help?”

As masks, glasses and gloves were about to be found, Kinander climbed up to hand over his protective armor to the DuPage County sheriff’s office.

“He went to private buyers and online retailers and did a lot to get us PPE during COVID,” Sheriff James Mendrick said.

But Kinander was forced to do more.

The idea came to Mendrick when he started a project to feed needy families. The sheriff called the program “Need a Village,” a concept that Kinander shared.

The Mendrick Department has teamed up with Meals on Wheels to distribute food twice a month, especially to seniors.

On a cold Saturday morning, as they did last year, sheriff ministers and volunteers presented a Thanksgiving gift to people waiting in long lines, two cars parked around a public school in Wheaton.

It would not have been possible without Kinander. His company, Electri-Flex, donated 800 turkeys to the sheriff’s department, grocery store and other nonprofits in the area to provide food aid to those suffering from hunger.

“Jason wears his heart on his hands,” Mendrick said. “He’s a generous man. He’s a great businessman. And I love that because he honestly wants revenge.”

Not to mention the detail, Kinander’s staff provides the grilled roasting turkeys, which weigh in at 15 to 20 pounds.

Boxes filled with turkeys, cooking instructions, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables. DuPage County Board member Jim Zay donated 550 packed bags.

Jason Kinander, CEO of Electri-Flex Co., and DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick replenish food supplies with Thanksgiving spread. “Jason, for me, should be ‘Citizen of the Year’ as much as I want to be,” Mendrick said.
– Brian Hill | Work Artist

Some boxes go to Bloomingdale, Addison and Lisle Township as well as community organizations throughout the state.

Electri-Flex also rented a cooling car to provide the remaining 250 turkeys and dining equipment at Wheaton. In the fast-paced two hours, sheriff staff loaded up vehicles with a spread of Thanksgiving, including boxes of Food on the Wheel, to help families secure a holiday.

“It looks like an air test,” Mendrick said of the attendants. The families took a week-long meal with Turkey on Thanksgiving.

“There is still a great need for hungry people,” said Kinander, whose company provided 1,000 turkeys last year. “Food, it’s expensive. They have a low income. Their lives have been disrupted by something they had no energy for.”

Evidence of its name, “Need for a Village” relies on businesses to address the problem of food insecurity. accounting firm Itasca Fates, Bodily and Parker; Accurate Prints Correct; restitution of non-profit SCARCE; Roselle Police Association Foundation; and Lisle Township also sponsored Thanksgiving celebrations.

From time to time, Kinander receives a thank-you note or message from the recipient of a meal.

“It’s heartwarming to receive voicemail on your phone at work,” he said. “They think it’s the biggest thing in the world that they get a week’s worth of food on vacation.”

But he is not looking for a confession. He declined to say how much the donations cost. Electri-Flex also offered ham at Easter with chicken and bratwursts on Thursday July.

Mendrick rewarded the sheriff with recognition for his support. But again, Kinander does not like to settle for respect.

“I humbled myself with it. Improper. There are a lot of people in this area who do a lot of good things,” said an Itasca man. “And I was touched, ridiculed and shaken by it.”

And what about that awkward feeling, his desire to help?

“If I know Jason, we’ll be back next year,” Mendrick said.

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