COPE president Gene Tilker (from left) and treasurer Joan Holzer accept a donation from Save a Lot produce manager Laken Atkinson and store manager Layla Turner. The store received a plaque, held by Atkinson, for its work in the company’s Bags for a Brighter Holiday food drive.

For at least the last three holiday seasons, the Metropolis Save a Lot store has provided Bags for a Brighter Holiday, a way for customers to assist COPE Food Pantry.

During the 2020 holiday season, from November through December, those customers purchased 451 of the pre-assembled bags of food.

That participation has been recognized.

From the almost 50 stores in its regional corporation, the Metropolis store received a bronze tier plaque for its participation and was voted the regional recipient of $250 for a charity of the store’s choice — making Bags for a Brighter Holiday an effort that has assisted COPE again.

COPE will use the $250 check to purchase food and supplies for the pantry.

“This helps us and them,” COPE president Gene Tilker noted.

“Everybody scores with this,” store manager Layla Turner said. “We got it to help them, and they’ll be giving it back.”

Locally, the Metropolis Save a Lot is owned by Houchens Industries, Inc. The general manager is Darryl Watson.

Nationally, 718 Save A Lot stores participated in the 2020 Bags for a Brighter Holiday program, with 185,481 bags of food purchased donated across the country — that’s more than $830,000 worth of food. To further amplify the program’s impact, Save A Lot matched donation efforts for more than 200 top-selling stores with a financial contribution to each store’s partner charity, totaling nearly $105,000 in additional local support.

“We’re humbled by the success of our Bags for a Brighter Holiday program this year, especially during such a challenging year for most,” said Kenneth McGrath, Save a Lot’s CEO. “We’ve really seen communities come together and support families in need, which is what this program is all about. It is a true representation of the generosity and support of each of our valued customers, and we can’t thank them enough for helping local families in need when it matters most.”

As a corporation, 2020 was the fifth year Save a Lot held the Bags for a Brighter Holiday program. In 2019, Save A Lot customers donated 82,676 bags — more than $411,000 worth of food — to support families in need.

Turner noted a lot of work goes in to making up the bags for COPE, but it’s all worth it.

“This award means a lot to me and my crew — a lot of hard work paid off in the end. I like to help the community, especially COPE, it warms my heart to do stuff like this,” she said. “We’ll be doing it again this year.”

The donation comes on the heels of a grant COPE received to increase its cold food storage.

In cooperation with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH), the Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network awarded equipment grants to provide a refrigerator or freezer to increase perishable cold food storage, enabling several pantries, including COPE, to offer fresh, healthy foods to its clients.

There are 95 food pantries in the state’s lower 16 counties. The Southern Illinois Food Pantry Network works to reduce hunger and improve the health and well-being of communities through access to healthy and nutritious food, education, resources and advocacy. By allocating donations from partnering organizations, they help to transform the lives of residents that face food insecurity in southern Illinois. For more information, visit

Monetary donations made out to COPE can be mailed to COPE, P.O. Box 461, Metropolis, IL 62960.

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