Ami Melton slowly approached the volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry at St. Joseph Parish in Farmington. The visit was her first to the pantry, and anxiety from health and financial stresses have overwhelmed her.
The volunteers put her at ease as they filled her basket. Pantry director Jennifer Rhodus invited Melton into her office to comfort her and discuss referrals and other ways the Society can help.
Melton, recently diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, said her health condition means that she no longer can work at her job. She called the pantry volunteers a “wonderful resource” who eased her stress. “They’re a blessing. Look at this food,” Melton said.
Another visitor to the pantry on a busy Friday morning, Ronald Hall, comes each month. He works in maintenance for his landlord, but it isn’t steady enough to pay rent and other bills, Hall said. “Sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet. God bless them for being here to help us,” he said.
Appeal provides help
The food pantry is among more than a dozen parish pantries that receive support from the Annual Catholic Appeal. The pantries are among 13 programs in the area of human dignity and social responsibility — ranging from Catholic Charities to the Peter and Paul Community Services’ shelter at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish — that are slated to receive $2,655,000 from the Appeal if its goal is met. The overall goal is $14.2 million.
Rhodus said the Appeal “is a bonus for us. We’re very blessed in our parish. If we have a need, it just tends to be met — God is good all of the time.”
The Appeal grant is one of those blessings assisting people with extraordinary needs, whether it’s grocery items the pantry doesn’t normally have, an outstanding utility bill that may prevent an elderly person from getting heat or housing for a homeless person, Rhodus said.
Sometimes the funds get so low that she considers cutting back on services, “but every time I have that conversation with God, then food, money or volunteers appear,” she said.
The food pantry serving people in a large area of St. Francois County moved into a new building a year ago that is three times the size of the original structure. It includes a waiting room — clients no longer have to stand outside in the elements — a walk-in cooler, refrigerator and freezer. But the heart of it is the donors and volunteers, Rhodus said.
“The volunteers are the face of God for our clients. They know their names and try to keep things positive and light. They’re truly God’s gift,” she said.
Earlier that morning, the volunteers assisted three families of eight people. “We see a lot of moms and dads working minimum-wage jobs and a lot of elderly who worked for the mines and can’t make ends meet,” Rhodus explained.The pantry serves 30 to 40 households two days a week.
Emily Barnhouse, a parishioner who is studying music education with a minor in music performance at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, packed bags with butter and eggs for clients. “I love it,” Barnhouse said of volunteering. “It’s nice to help people who feel stranded. And it helps draw me closer to the Lord in helping Him serve other people.”
Lin Klump, a parishioner in her second week of helping, said “I was hooked the first time I came. It’s hard work made easy.”
Susie Rohrer retired as principal of St. Joseph School and then came across the street to volunteer at the pantry. The clients “are so appreciative. It makes me feel good to see them smile,” Rohrer said. “I thank God every day for placing me here. It’s a special place where everybody has huge hearts.”
At closing time, the volunteers gather in a circle to pray for people who have struggles.
Meal and mingle
In another part of the archdiocese, the Soulard neighborhood of south St. Louis, volunteers help at the year-round emergency shelter for homeless single adult men run by Peter and Paul Community Services at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. Once a month, volunteers from the STL Young Adults program of the archdiocese’s Office of Young Adult Ministry provide an evening meal, perform music and mingle with the men staying there.
After a group prayer, Andy Howard, a parishioner at the Washington University Catholic Student Center, shook hands with the men while handing out plates of chicken fried rice, egg rolls and clementines. Howard and one of the men discussed various spices and how they flavor food.
Howard said he enjoys being part of the men’s journeys. “I like getting to know them, seeing where they are and spending time listening and learning from them,” he said. “They have a lot of life experiences.”
The Appeal gives the shelter an unrestricted gift that enables it to help clients to buy shoes, get identification cards or help with employment needs. Half of the clients, though they have no permanent housing, are employed.
Darryl Blair came to the shelter when he lost his housing after being hospitalized. Peter and Paul staff provided him with clothing and encouraged him to find work. A certified nursing assistant, he’s obtained a job and intends to save up for a place to live while staying at the shelter. “They’ve been a really big support,” he said.
Kelly Roth, a parishioner at the Washington University Catholic Student Center, called the shelter a second home. “Volunteering helps me live out my faith in a real way and in kinship with other human beings who deserve everything I have,” she said.
Holly Scheibel of Eiphany Parish in south St. Louis said the men who have a goal and plans get support from Peter and Paul to move forward. “It’s a community,” she said. “If we have something going on in our lives, the guys have good advice. And they sometimes need a sounding board.”
Neil, a client who didn’t want his last name published, said Peter and Paul “lets me know people care and that God cares. Jesus says to love one another, love your neighbor. That should be the object. And when we speak kind words to one another we lift each other up.”
How to donate
The financial goal of the 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal is $14.2 million. Approximately 91 cents of every dollar raised goes back into the community in the form of direct services. The appeal will be conducted in most parishes the weekends of April 27-28, May 4-5 and May 11-12.
To learn more about the Annual Catholic Appeal, visit www.archstl.org/aca or call (314) 792-7680.
The Annual Catholic Appeal supports the following programs and ministries
HUMAN DIGNITY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBLITY
Catholic Charities — $1,300,000
Respect Life Apostolate — $325,000
Regina Cleri Priests Retirement Home — $315,000
Hispanic Ministry — $195,000
Rural Parish Clinic — $100,000
Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent — $100,000
Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service — $90,000
Criminal Justice Ministry — $65,000
Archbishop’s Charity Fund — $50,000
Immigrant and Refugee Support — $40,000
Parish Food Pantries — $35,000
Doorways HIV Ministry — $30,000
Peter and Paul Community Services, Shelter at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish — $10,000
Elementary School Assistance — $2,000,000
Archdiocesan High Schools — $1,170,000
Continuing Formation of Priests — $676,000
Special Education — $300,000
Parochial High Schools — $260,000
Newman Centers on College Campuses — $250,000
Permanent Diaconate — $130,000
Today and Tomorrow Educational Fund — $100,000
Care for Active and Retired Priests — $750,000
St. Charles Lwanga Center — $145,000
Catholic St. Louis Magazine — $80,000
Latin America Apostolate — $75,000
Rural Parish Workers — $50,000
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis — $50,000
Catholic Renewal Center — $31,000
Messengers of Peace Mission Work — $25,000
CULTURE OF LEADERSHIP
Archdiocesan Seminary — $600,000
Stewardship and Development Support for Parishes, Schools and Agencies — $520,000
Vocation Programs — $505,000
Marriage and Family Life — $450,000
Paul VI Institute/Adult Catechesis — $300,000
Natural Family Planning — $200,000
Parish Emergency Assistance Fund — $90,000
Elementary Teachers Educational Fund — $75,000
High School Stewardship Essay Program — $55,000
Support for Religious Orders — $25,000
Catholic Youth Apostolate — $20,000
Annual Catholic Appeal Expenses — $1,335,000
Reserve for Unpaid Pledges — $852,000
Archdiocesan Services — $426,000
2019 Appeal Goal: $14,200,000
None of the money raised by the Annual Catholic Appeal is used to defend or settle criminal or civil lawsuits related to the clergy abuse scandal.