The St. Therese Emergency Food Pantry had its beginnings in the early 1950s shortly after a St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) conference was established at the parish in 1949, said Cheryl Mowan, district president of the Society in the Fort Wayne area.
“People used to come to the church office at 2304 Lower Huntington Road almost daily asking for food,” she continued. Vincentians began stockpiling food items in the office basement and when Mowan began working as the parish secretary in 1982-83, there was a long-running system in place for handout or delivery of food boxes to the needy. “I started giving out food one day a week in 1995, but climbing up and down the steep basement steps carrying heavy boxes while leaving the office unattended got to be a real burden,” she indicated, so she asked her husband, Mike, to help with food distribution.
Parishioners Greg and Sue Rockstroh also began assisting and helped convince the pastor to remodel and dedicate two bays in the parish garage for food storage and emergency distribution. It was decided the food pantry would be open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Those using the facility – approximately 40 to 55 individuals/families a week – have to furnish proof they live in the 46809, 46819, 46798 (Yoder) or 46777 (Ossian) zip code area. They are restricted to one visit per month, although no one ever is turned away because he or she is not familiar with the rules. “If someone does not live in our area we direct them to a food pantry near their residency the next time,” Cheryl added.
The St. Therese Food Pantry purchases food, juices and household items from Community Harvest Food Bank and receives free government commodities of frozen and canned meats, fish, cheese, canned goods and other supplies. The pantry mostly depends on donations from parishioners and contributing SVdP members.
One of the most generous contributors is Nick and Cindy Hogan who monthly donate hundreds of boxes of cereal, box mixes and other food items. “There are many other generous donors and contributing SVdP members on whom we depend,” said Cheryl. The St. Therese Food Pantry can use whatever people can give including fresh produce of vegetables and fruits.
There also are several parish volunteers who weekly help food pantry visitors select items they need or assist them in getting groceries to their vehicle, which occasionally is just a bicycle, motorized scooter or battery-powered wheelchair. Some also walk to the food pantry from more than a mile away. Volunteers include: the Rockstrohs, Lyle and Dorothy Freimuth, Joan Mitchell, Nellie Schaffer, Katie Stoppenhagen, Larry Colchin, Pete Duran, Terry Lundquist, Mike Mowan and Vince LaBarbera.