Working together helps fill local food pantry shelves

img_9192-small.jpgThanks to the efforts of Deputy Grand Knight Pat Pappa of Council 4179, employees at County Market in Chatham and a lot of generous grocery shoppers, the shelves of Catholic Charities' Holy Family Food Pantry in Springfield have recently been better stocked.

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Pat Pappa loads groceries into his truck following a six-hour food drive at County Market in Chatham on Saturday, July 26. He said the Knights of Columbus food drive for Holy Family Food Pantry was so successful that he could barely fit all the donations into his vehicle. Pappa is Deputy Grand Knight for K.C. Council 4179 in Chatham. However, because of the recent high demand at the pantry most of the groceries have already been distributed and more contributions are needed.

Thanks to the efforts of Deputy Grand Knight Pat Pappa of Council 4179, employees at County Market in Chatham and a lot of generous grocery shoppers, the shelves of Catholic Charities' Holy Family Food Pantry in Springfield have recently been better stocked.

Pappa spent from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 26 asking shoppers at the Chatham supermarket to donate food for the needy. People who wanted to give could pay for a brown pre-packed bag of food or buy individual items and drop them into baskets in the store lobby.

"The pre-packed bags of groceries were priced at $4.99, but there was actually $8.80 worth of food in those bags," said Pappa, who eventually loaded approximately 60 of the pre-packaged bags and a whole lot of other groceries into his pick-up truck. He said store manager Shannon McCauley was both generous and cooperative, as were the store clerks who helped load the groceries.

"We had a great response," Pappa said. "They bought all those bags and then there were all the individual donations from patrons at the store. I almost needed another truck to collect it all." Some people gave cash, so he was also able to hand over donations of $125 to the food pantry.

Pappa began volunteering at the food pantry several years ago while he was recovering from triple bypass heart surgery. "I feel like I was given another chance at life then," he said. "It was also at that time that I saw how much the food pantry helps people in the community." Although this is the first time Pappa has organized a food drive involving the public, he has long encouraged Knights from the Chatham council to bring donations to meetings.

Holy Family Food Pantry supervisor Janet Nelson said Pappa, along with his wife and two young daughters, asked to deliver the food on Sunday. "We had just unloaded a truck from St. John Vianney Parish in Sherman that was full - and then Pat came with his, which was really stuffed. I honestly don't know how they packed it and kept it all in there.

"Pat regularly stops in with donations and we are really grateful to him," Nelson said, adding that County Market has been generous, too. "We were especially pleased that the pre-packed bags contained items that we really needed. That was wonderful."

Carol Harms, community services coordinator for Catholic Charities in Springfield, said donations such as these are especially important during June, July and August, when children are on summer break and are eating more meals at home. The higher cost of gas and groceries has also contributed to some people's financial woes.

"We are appreciative of any donation that individuals or groups make, but when we see truckloads of food being delivered we really get excited," Harms said.

Nelson said that even though those Sunday donations replenished the food pantry's shelves, more help is needed in securing both food and school supplies. "What came in (from the Chatham and Sherman food drives) has probably gone out by now," she said. "We are still absolutely desperate for more donations."

Catholic Charities is collecting school supplies until Aug. 25, to help provide for the back-to-school needs of area children. "We are in real need of book bags," Nelson said, noting that she will be glad to answer questions about what other supplies are in demand. "Sometimes, for example, we have received a big donation of glue or crayons and really need other things." Of course, monetary donations are always helpful.

Holy Family Food Pantry is located at 1023 E. Washington St. in Springfield. For more information or to set up a time to drop off donations, call Janet Nelson at (217) 523-2450. 

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