History of the Food Pantry
The St. Joseph Food Pantry first opened in January 2001 at the suggestion of the associate pastor at St. Joseph Church at the time, Fr. Michael Suchnicki (OFM Cap.), who recognized a need for weekend food support in the community. After a year of planning and researching how other pantries were run, a team of adults, including Belinda Hartman, Amy Schaffer, and Fr. Michael, established the policies and procedures for how the pantry would be run. And in the fall of 2000, the plan for St. Joseph Food Pantry was approved by the pastoral council and its mission and confidentiality policy read as follows:
MISSION: The Pastoral Council has provided the direction for this project. It is simply a way for our community to give, and give as they are able, without specific concern regarding to whom the food is given to. Secondly, it is a project in which young people can experience their personal faith "in action" and can see their work making a real difference in other's lives.
CONFIDENTIALITY: it is our wish to preserve the dignity of each person who comes through our doors and is in need. Consequently, we would ask that the names of those we provide to NOT be mentioned outside of the pantry experience. While the parish is very interested in the progress of this project, we prefer to speak in terms of the number of persons served or the number of boxes given out.
After the challenge of maintaining the pantry was unanimously accepted by the members of the youth group at the time, the responsibility of managing the services of the new Food Pantry was charged to Renee and Jerry Michaud, the youth group (CYO) leaders at the time and was to be a service project that the young people in the parish could do for the community.
In the months that followed, the collection of non-perishable food items began, and the students began to organize the pantry items into a store-like design. The Pantry was located in the St. Joseph Parish Center, with the boxes packed in an old classroom on the second floor and given out in the first floor lobby. And on the first day of operations, the St. Joseph Food Pantry gave out 13 boxes to families in need of support. In the years since then, the volunteers at the Pantry have served countless individuals and families.
After Kennedy Middle School was closed by the United School District 489 in 2012, the vacancy in the old school building became an opportunity to move the Food Pantry to a space with rooms no longer separated by two flights of stairs. Plans took shape, and in July of 2014, the St. Joseph Food Pantry relocated across the street with the Generous assistance lent by a handful of volunteers with trucks. That day about four big trucks and at least ten volunteers helped to clear all of the food, boxes, and tables out of the pantry on the second floor of the Parish Center, load it all into the trucks waiting at the bottom of the stairs, and moved everything into the former Kennedy School Building across the street. Soon the Pantry was settled into the old classrooms on the ground floor of the sixth grade wing with the new distribution area running our of the North end of the cafeteria also on the ground floor.
THE NEW PANTRY
The new pantry first opened its doors on July 19th, 2014. Although the St. Joseph Food Pantry had only been in the Kennedy for one year, the volunteers are already enjoying not carrying food and boxes up and down two flights of stairs any more! That past year of 2014 saw a record number of record breaking numbers in people utilizing the Pantry's assistance, our highest being 199 boxes distributed on December 20th, 2014. This project certainly has come a long way from giving out 13 boxes in 2001!