Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer
November 30, 2017 // Local

St. Vincent food pantry seeks to serve the needy in Elkhart

Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer

The Vincentian society in Elkhart is making an effort to bring awareness to the food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul Church in that city. The pantry — a collaboration between the two Elkhart parishes, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Thomas the Apostle — is in the St. Vincent de Paul Pastoral Center, behind St. Vincent de Paul School at 1108 S. Main St.

Erin Cataldo, project coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul School and self-proclaimed “passionate Vincentian,” said this year they have been focusing on an outreach for donors, as there are people in both parishes who don’t know about the food pantry or how they can contribute to it.

“We’re making a more conscious effort to let the parishioners know we’re here and that they can support us with either funds or food,” Cataldo said.

Don Locke has been president of the society for the past seven years and is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. He said the society builds unity between the two parishes; and while the food pantry does assist members of both parishes, he said, “The majority of our clients come from the community.”

Erin Cataldo, left, project coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul School and a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Don Locke, president of the society, arrange donated items on the shelves of the food pantry located at St. Vincent de Paul Pastoral Center, Elkhart.

A new brochure has been created to spread the word, and the pantry has partnered with other organizations like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and The Women’s Care Center so clients of those organizations are aware of the pantry’s existence. She said the creation of the brochure has already led to great things — like the concentrated effort by Earl and Jody Huxhold, who made a point to seek out donations of individually packaged meat for the pantry’s clients.

Two years ago, a fresh produce program was started. When the original business donors fell through, Gary Fox stepped up and sponsored the whole summer. Another Vincentian, Angie Lovejoy, considers herself the “produce manager,” according to Cataldo and Locke; she works with Kruse Farm Supply in Bristol, which donates individually packaged produce for the pantry.

St. Vincent food pantry is an emergency food pantry, so clients can visit six times per calendar year with a minimum of 31 days between visits. It’s open Tuesdays from 1-2:30 p.m. Both churches hold special collections to fill the pantry shelves with staple items like flour, pinto beans, rice, macaroni and cheese, pancake mix and syrup, peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal and other nonperishable items.

In addition to food, financial assistance for rent and utilities is given out when funds are available. Clients can request financial assistance once every 12 months. Tickets are given to the first 25 people in line and the first three are given financial aid if it is needed. Erin said sometimes clients are waiting outside as early as 8 a.m.

Smoke detector program

The Vincentian society partnered with the American Red Cross beginning in March to get smoke detectors installed in client homes. The Huxholds volunteered to receive the necessary training, and now when clients visit the food pantry they can hear a presentation and can sign up for the Vincentians to come install a new or replacement smoke detector.

Locke said that from March through Sept. 30, a total of 100 units have been installed in clients’ homes. 

Young Vincentians

The Young Vincentians at St. Vincent de Paul School have been collecting personal care items for food pantry clients. Collection boxes were placed in each classroom during October, and the items collected included deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, soap, small packages of tissues and hand sanitizers.

Cataldo said the Young Vincentians club recently restarted at the school, and the group fits well with the renewed mission and message Principal Tara Lundy is focusing on, which is service. Students are being taught different aspects of Catholic social teaching based on their grade level.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic organization of lay persons founded in 1883 by Frederic Ozanam and his companions. Placed under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, its members are inspired by St. Vincent de Paul and his thinking and work. In a spirit of justice and mercy, they seek to help those who are suffering.

In 2016, the St. Vincent de Paul-St. Thomas the Apostle conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul served 5,481 people.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.