Our History

COOL Ministries is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, was founded by people from six Lutheran Churches in the Waukegan/North Chicago area in 1982 and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1983. The First program was the COOL Food Pantry, opening its doors in January 1983.

Hungry Neighbors Wait for Help on Water St

The pantry provides food for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with specialty foods for cardiac and diabetic diets. We offer ethnic foods and foods for those with allergies.

Since the recession in this decade began visitation to the COOL Food Pantry has nearly doubled.  In 2011 the Pantries served 39,709 individuals with food enough for 476,508 balanced meals. In 2015 visitation grew resulting in a total of 72,391 individuals receiving food from COOL. That is enough food to make 868,692 meals! Although the economy is improving COOL services are still in high demand. In 2016 more than 67,000 individuals received groceries from the COOL Pantries.

Our pantry is supported by the entire Lake County community including churches, individuals, Waukegan Community Development Block Grant, corporate and foundation grants and many others. COOL programs are also supported by the United Way of Lake County.

COOL began the Transitional Housing Program in October of 1988. The purpose of this Family Housing Program is to provide housing and case management to homeless families in need of life re-structuring. Along with case management , COOL provides a clean, safe place to live, counseling, life skills training and other support services which collectively work to enable guest families to transform their lives and make a smooth progression toward self-sufficient living. COOL provides rent and utility paid housing for up to 12 months while families work to save enough money for a home down payment or first and last months rent upon leaving the program.

Guest families must be motivated to follow their individual goals plan in order to reach success in every category of their lives. Families must maintain a job, save money, receive counseling, attend money management classes, and acquire better domestic skills and parenting skills. Following the policies and guidelines is mandatory and enables families to achieve successful problem solving skills, such as attaining dependable transportation and adequate childcare, allowing them to progress more quickly and achieve goals more rapidly.

2015 Name Change

The COOL Board of Directors recognized that COOL has grown substantially over the years. Member churches and supporters are increasingly diverse and though COOL Ministries was founded by a small group of Lutherans in 1983, COOL is now a major Social Service agency serving all of Lake County Illinois. In February of 2015 by unanimous vote of the  Directors serving on the COOL Board the official name of the organization was changed from “Christian Outreach of Lutherans” to “COOL Ministries” in recognition that our supporters are not only Lutheran, but come from all walks of life and are as diverse as the clients we serve!

Move to 800 West Glen Flora Avenue

After nearly 30 years of serving your Lake County neighbors in need out of a small storefront and makeshift office on Water Street in downtown Waukegan, the COOL Central Offices and Pantry East moved to a new building of their own thanks to the generous support of friends at the Henderson Foundation who helped make the dream of a larger building a reality. In February of 2016 COOL moved north of the downtown area to their current and new home at 800 W. Glen Flora Avenue! The move enabled COOL to increase the amount of food available to those in need as there is plenty of storage at the new building including a walk in refrigerator and freezer for cold food storage. The expanded waiting room space has all but eliminated the need for visitors in need of food to ever have to wait outside. The new warehouse space also provides a double garage door so grocery trucks can unload deliveries inside, making the process of receiving donations much more efficient. Thank you Henderson Foundation!!!

. . . . . . . . . . . .



Serving Lake and
McHenry Counties

Cllick here to Find and Review us on Google Maps!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

COOL Central Offices
800 W. Glen Flora Ave.
Waukegan IL 60085
Phone: 847.662.1340
Fax: 847-662-1255

Pantry East Waukegan
800 W. Glen Flora Avenue
Waukegan IL 60085

10:00 AM-2:00 PM

call 847.662.1230 for details



Family Housing Program
800 W. Glen Flora Avenue
Waukegan IL 60085
call 847.662-1340