On Wednesday, I enjoyed the opportunity to tour the food closet of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. What a wonderful experience! Volunteer Val greeted me and my coworker Tania and then showed us the process for welcoming clients. Each individual checks in with a pair of volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul office where they show identification and a piece of mail (they serve families within boarders drawn by the St. Vincent de Paul conference. One volunteer helps them complete a quick form to track the number of individuals in their household and the other looks up their name in the computer. Neighbors are welcome to come once in the first two weeks of the month for produce and dry goods and once in the second two weeks of the month for produce, dry goods and a bag of additional items such as meat and dairy.
Each guest receives a sticker with number of children and adults in the household and they are ushered from the check-in room to the parking lot where they shop for beautiful produce at Ester and Sam’s place. A large green awning and a team of volunteers keep the 30 bins of produce fully stocked for shoppers to select what they would like. Today’s offerings include cucumbers of all sizes and varieties, carrots, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, tomatoes, strawberries and more. Volunteers pick up at over a dozen local grocery stores each week along with vendors from the Carmichael Farmers’ Market and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
The line moves very quickly and Val shares they had a big rush earlier due to the closure on 4th of July. Hundreds of neighbors, including a small number of their own parishioners, rely on St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church’s food pantry every month.
Val then escorts me into the building to get a peek behind the scenes. With a staff of ZERO, this team of 25 volunteers keeps busy breaking bulk items like cereal into smaller bags, sorting canned items, organizing bread and treating every guest with dignity and respect. One wall displays neatly organized canned food items and another wall boasts 5 donated refrigerators and freezers from decades gone by. The volunteers greatly value these appliances so they can extend the life of the donated produce by a few days for the families they serve.
The church recently celebrated 50 years of service in Carmichael and many volunteers felt just as long for the distribution of food.
The group’s organization of product, smiling faces, detailed record keeping and neighborhood knowledge impressed me greatly. I look forward to visiting again in the future and learning more from my upcoming visit to a third Partner Agency soon.
Submitted by Kelly Siefkin
VP of Communications & Marketing