Our History

COOL Ministries, 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.

From January 2007 through August of 2018,  a satellite pantry, COOL Pantry West, operated in Ingleside out of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

COOL 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 Pantries has nearly doubled.  In 2022 visitation grew resulting in a total of 72,391 individuals receiving food from COOL. That is enough food to make 868,692 meals!

The 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 began the Transitional Housing Program in October of 1988. The purpose of this Family Housing Program is to provide case management to homeless families in need of life re-structuring. Along with case management, we provide 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 recognizes 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!

2016 Move to 800 W. Glen Flora Avenue, Waukegan

After nearly 30 years serving our neighbors in need out of a small storefront on Water Street in downtown Waukegan, COOL Ministries Central Offices and Pantry East relocated to a larger building at 800 W. Glen Flora Avenue just north of the downtown area. Thanks to our friends at the Henderson Foundation who made this move possible Food Pantry East now has a large waiting room and warehouse which includes a huge garage with double garage doors allowing food to be unloaded inside. For decades staff and volunteers labored outdoors regardless of the weather moving food by hand and cart inside as none of our doorways were wide enough to allow efficient moving by pallet. If you haven’t visited the new space yet please stop in and see us anytime during business hours.

On February 12th, 2016 the entire community was invited to join us at a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony celebrating the new Glen Flora Building.  Along with the Mayor, COOL staff and board members took this opportunity to thank the community and  and share our gratitude with the many supporters who helped us complete this project.

Cutting the ribbon with Mayor Motley and Don Henderson


COOL Supporters George O’Brien, Don Henderson and Scott Jewel

Celebrating Feeding the Hungry & Housing the Homeless

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Serving Lake and
McHenry Counties

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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