CAMBY — She’s not by any measure, rolling in money, but still gives a lot of what she has to people who have even less.
That’s because 75-year-old Lillian Ollanketo has been there.
“I’m a bargain hunter. I’m all about the bargains,” Ollanketo said.
In fact, that’s all it took during Tuesday’s snowstorm, when most people were avoiding driving, for Ollanketo to take her chances on the roads anyway.
“I learned to drive in Chicago and if you could drive up there in the winter time, you can drive anywhere,” she said.
What Ollanketo was after, though, at a local Menards, may not have seemed like much, at least not to some people.
“It come out in the Sunday ad and it said, ‘while supplies last.’ And here I was, I was beating it down there to make sure I got plenty of them before the supply ended,” Ollanketo explained.
Ollanketo is taking about insulated socks that were on sale, two pair for $1.49.
They seem like such a simple item, a staple, really, hardly the kind of item for which you’d brave a snowstorm.
But to the folks Ollanketo sees come through the doors at Billie’s Food Pantry at 1754 W. Morris St., where she volunteers every week, socks in the winter can mean everything.
“I remember growing up, what it was like,” Ollanketo explained. “We had nothing. We lived on welfare in a housing project in Tennessee.”
While that’s not the case anymore, the lessons poverty taught Ollanketo have never gone away, even if the hardship has.
“I still remember where I came from,” she said. “If you have extra you help people that needs it.”
Ollanketo never expected, though, a young man who waited on her at Menards, had somehow learned the same lesson.
“After he helped me find the socks and he came up through there and he had his arms full of hats and gloves and he said, ‘Do you want these?’ And I said, ‘Well how much are they?’ And he said, ‘You just pick ’em up when you go out’,” recalled Ollanketo.
“He said, ‘It’s made me happy to know there are still people out there who have a good heart,” Ollanketo added.
“I was crying the whole time I was checking out at the cashier’s. I was crying.”
At the time, Ollanketo didn’t even get the man’s name.
“I was just so overwhelmed that a young guy would do something like that,” she explained.
She knows his name now, though, and said she’s not likely to forget it.
“I ran into Andy and I probably wouldn’t have run into him any other time. It was just meant to be,” said Ollanketo.