Deacon Richard Schellhase took a breather after a busy period late morning Feb. 3 in the produce department at Feed My People’s food pantry in south St. Louis County. A minute had barely passed when his grandson, a Chaminade freshman volunteering for the day, relayed the news that “a six-bagger was coming up,” an order of food for a client with a large family.
Soon they were filling two bags with bananas, tomatoes, avocados and more. In the next room, Ann Skidmore packed a bag with milk and cheese. Other volunteers pitched in with various items, assembly-line style.
The recipient, Thomastine Richardson, called the pantry a blessing and said working families such as hers don’t qualify for government assistance and have to rely on help from the community.
Feed My People provides God’s love and compassion to neighbors in need. The organization, with 11 Catholic parishes among the Christian congregations working together to give people in need hope for a brighter future, was founded in 1962 by Carol and John DeGuire in south St. Louis County. It added a program in High Ridge in 1997 and now serves people in 16 zip codes.
Deacon Schellhase, who serves at Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville, volunteers Mondays stocking produce and filling orders at Feed My People in south St. Louis County.
He was welcomed right away 10 years ago when he first walked through the doors. To his co-volunteers’ laughs, he noted that he benefits from physical exercise when filling orders, stocking, moving around the produce area and bringing groceries out to the clients. “To see the clients, how much in need they are” is eye-opening, Deacon Schellhase said.
He told of a mom who received a box of donuts along with a grocery cart full of items, and her young daughter was thrilled. “This child didn’t have donuts very much, obviously. It’s helpful to be able to serve our brothers and sisters in need,” he said.
He appreciates that his needs are met, and he thanks God for what he has. “So I try to give everything I can to help those who don’t,” he said.
The volunteers, Deacon Schellhase said, look forward to seeing each other every Monday. “We have a good time. We have lunch together, talk about the ball scores, joke.”
Karen Bush formerly volunteered to manage the Affton Christian Food Pantry at St. George Parish in Affton. She had yet to retire from her job, and the hours at the pantry piled up, so she pulled back.
Now she volunteers one morning a week at the food pantry in Affton. She volunteers in the day care and with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at her parish, St. Simon in Green Park. She’s been coming to Feed My People for three years, volunteering in the produce section one afternoon a week. “I have more time than money,” she said of her stewardship.
Many years ago, when her children were young, her husband became ill and was forced to quit working. He was sick eight years when he died.
“I had to have help. I didn’t ask. But I know what it was like, maybe not as bad as some of the people we see, so that made me want to give back,” Bush said. “Every night I thank God for the roof over my head, food on the table, clothes on my back and health for the day.”
She said she volunteers because she wants to, not because she feels obliged. Her faith life and volunteering go together. In retirement, she attends daily Mass. “It keeps me going. I’m very thankful, and this is my way of giving back. Otherwise, I might just sit at home and mope. It’s very fulfilling.”
Rooted in the Bible
Ann Skidmore sought a volunteer opportunity about three years ago after she retired. “I enjoy the work. I’m tired when I go home,” she said.
She refers to Bible passages such as the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). The rich man, dressed in purple and fine linen, lived in luxury. He failed to help a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus spent the afterlife at the side of Abraham while the rich man begged for mercy in torment.
Volunteering gives her joy, said Skidmore, a parishioner of St. Raphael in St. Louis who assists in the dairy section of the pantry. “I feel like I’m really helping somebody who needs it.”
The volunteers, “wonderful Christian people,” don’t make judgments about clients’ situations, she said, though they know that some of them are low-wage workers.
Feed My People is seeking people to
join its dedicated group of volunteers who reach out to people in need
and show them God’s love. Volunteers are needed at locations in south
St. Louis County or High Ridge.
Some positions require a regular commitment.
information, call Stephanie at (314) 631-4900, ext. 315. The South
County site is at 171 Kingston Drive; the High Ridge site is at 3295
Feed My People relies on fundraisers, individual donations and grants to fulfill its mission. For information, visit feed-my-people.org.
>> Feed My People
Karen Lanter recently began work
as executive director of Feed My People. Lanter has more than 20 years’
experience in nonprofit leadership and most recently was a national
manager with the U.S. Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Lanter is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
are the backbone of Feed My People, one of the largest centers helping
people in need in the St. Louis area, Lanter said. “Without them, we
wouldn’t be able to serve the needs of so many families.”
In addition to volunteers, Feed My People needs monetary donations as well as food and personal care items, she said.
A report last fall from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows Missouri has a rate of food insecurity of 12 percent. Feeding America’s
statistics show that St. Louis has the highest rate at 23 percent and
St. Charles has the lowest rate of 9 percent. One in six children
struggles with hunger, according to Feeding America. Lanter said “it’s
an opportunity for all of us to realize that ‘but for the grace of God
there goes I.’ So it’s an opportunity for all of us to give back.”
individual giving, Feed My People urges food drives. Donations for the
thrift store also are sought. For information, visit feed-my-people.org.