At All Saints School in St. Peters, two cafeteria workers were busy as usual March 23, even though the students weren’t in attendance. This time, Arleen Ziegemeier and Kathy Kissell made 63 bag lunches with turkey sandwiches, apples, chips and cookies. They cooked spaghetti and meatballs the next day for 80 people.
The packaged meals went out in a “contactless” system using volunteer drivers who deliver to homes of people needing food within the immediate area. No one is allowed in the kitchen except for the cafeteria workers and coordinator. The drivers pick up the bags, ring the doorbells, leave the food on doorsteps and drive away, keeping everyone safe from the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
The drop-off lunch program, which began that day, provides lunches to anyone in need.
The project came together quickly, developed by parish staff and supported by the parish pastor, Father Don Wester, as a way to stay connected with people while avoiding a physical presence. “The parish’s first response was, ‘What can we do to help people,’” said Nicole Gillenardo, a librarian at All Saints School.
Ziegemeier, a parishioner and kitchen manager, said “it warms my heart to help people out. It’s a wonderful thing.”
She cited the “great relationships” she has with the children, teachers and staff.
Kissell misses the “big, happy family” at the school. “This is my fill-in, and I’m glad to help people who need it,” she said. “It makes me feel good to help.”
Gillenardo serves as coordinator, linking people in need with the deliveries five days a week. About 20 parishioners have volunteered as drivers recruited by Father Bob Suit, associate pastor. The recipients represent a wide variety of people, from school families to shut-ins, “from every walk of life,” Gillenardo said.
Ziegemeier, whose ties to the parish and school extend to her grandparents and continued with her children, said “it’s a great community. And the whole St. Peters area is a great community.”
Diane Valentine, director of administration at All Saints, said the kitchen staff and coordinator “brought tears to my eyes when I asked them if they’d be willing to take this new ministry on. They didn’t bat an eye, said, ‘Yes’ immediately.”
Parishioners, “who live as disciples of Christ,” are committed to helping others, Valentine said, adding that people do not have to be parishioners to receive help. Similar to the Annual Catholic Appeal’s mission, Valentine said, “we do it because we’re Catholic, not because they are.”
The parish has a coronavirus relief fund that accepts contributions to offset costs of the program.
Elaine Miazga, a parishioner who is a preschool teacher at All Saints School, volunteered to do deliveries. Her assignment took her to a small senior village near the parish. As she neared her car after dropping off the lunches, some of the seniors cracked the door open, peeked their head out and offered their appreciation.
“They were so gracious. It was very sweet,” Miazga said.
Otherwise, Miazga is connecting with her preschool students and overseeing the schoolwork her teenagers are doing via distance learning. She’s tackling some spring cleaning and walking the family’s dog. “Actually, it’s a lot more family time than we had before, so we’re all pretty happy being home together,” she said.
>> How to help
Donations to the All Saints Parish
Coronavirus Relief Fund will provide food, meals and supplies to people
in need in The community. To donate, visit https://bit.ly/2y12iJT or mail a donation to All Saints Parish, 7 McMenamy Road St. Peters, MO 63376.
For information, visit allsaints-stpeters.org.