Seniors active at St. Patrick Food Bank
By Mark Weber
FORT WAYNE — For the crew of volunteers, all seniors, at the St. Patrick Food Bank in Fort Wayne, the loaves’ and fishes’ miracle must have special significance. At 8 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the crew shows up, as do walk-ins who depend on the St. Patrick’s Food Bank for a bag of groceries.
The food bank is open from 9 to 11 a.m., so before clients arrive, on Mondays, the crew awaits a Associated Churches Food Bank van bearing fresh supplies. As they drink coffee and bag groceries, the volunteers talk sports and weather, swap opinions on members of the clergy, and hope for more peanut butter.
St. Patrick’s Food Bank, on the parish campus, is one of 28 units supplied by the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne Food Bank. In addition to this main source, St. Patrick’s receives private donations of food and nonfood items and money.
The Salem United Church of Christ on Lake Avenue channels its food donations through St. Patrick’s, as does St. Charles Parish. St. Charles also sends SCRIP, which can be used at local food sources.
At St. Patrick’s, every single box of cereal or bottle of detergent is weighed or tabulated for monthly reports which are filed with Associated Churches and Community Harvest Food Bank, who in turn, reports these figures to their sources and in grant applications. Money received and how it is spent is included in St. Patrick’s reports.
For a bag of groceries containing canned food, soup, soap, toilet paper, hot dogs, pasta, bread, cereal, etc., worth approximately $75, visitors may come in once a month and must live in a specified area served by St. Patrick’s. Requests for coffee, sugar, laundry detergent or diapers are filled if supplies are available. Bread is available anytime. To qualify, visitors need only give their name and address.
The St. Patrick Food Bank was founded about 17 years ago by Jack Soderquist, a tireless individual relentlessly dedicated to assisting those in need. This man’s determination was measured by the fact that because of poor sight, he could not drive, and rode a bicycle on all errands and to work.
Jack is now retired in Michigan and his work at St. Patrick’s is carried on by protégé Roger Rang, a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Fort Wayne.
As manager, Roger’s day begins with lugging supplies off the supply van and ends with precise record keeping needed to justify the continued supply of necessities.
He is also ambassador, point man, bouncer, purchasing agent and devotee of Frederic Ozanam.
Roger is assisted by other St. John’s parishioners, Martin Hussar, Jim Laughlin, Bob Lengerich, Dick Weber and formerly by Larry Granahan. With fondness, Roger recalls the devoted service of Victor Deininger, Frank Kilcoin and Dave Rohyans, who have passed on.
Volunteer Jane Pierce, a St. Patrick parishioner, has been the food bank receptionist for seven years. Before retirement, Jane was the manager of the South Side High School cafeteria for 25 years.
Helen Hlawek, from St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne, comes in one day a week and also volunteers at St. Peter Parish food bank on Thursdays. In addition, Helen is a volunteer driver for the Cancer Society and the League for the Blind.
When each of these volunteers, most of whom have lost a spouse, or are single, was asked, “why do you do it?” they hesitated and said something about enjoying the companionship of the rest of the crew, and searched for words about “filling a need.”
What was unsaid and clearly unstated was that by observing the need and the appreciation of those who depend on the food bank, the volunteers also develop a hunger, not of the belly kind, but of a gnawing hunger to continue to fill the shelves, to fill those brown bags, and in that way, attempt to fill the hearts of those who visit the St. Patrick Food Bank.
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