I’ve driven by Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church hundreds of times over the past decade. Just a few blocks from my house, I’d always admired the beautiful statue out front that showcased flowers and colorful fabrics at different times throughout the year. On Wednesday, July 24 I decided to learn a bit more about the church’s role in fighting hunger in our community.
I scheduled a visit with Marylee and entered the large St. Vincent de Paul Food Locker toward the back of the church grounds just before 9 a.m. The massive tented structure, which formerly housed storage for church festivals and fundraisers, buzzed with energy of volunteers getting ready to welcome their guests. In the back, Marylee’s husband Jerry offloaded 500 pounds of food, including boxes of Clif bars and crates of frozen meat from local grocery stores. Volunteers pick up from six local grocers nine times per week and today’s donations left Jerry smiling as he knew how much the clients would appreciate these items.
Marylee showed me two newer refrigerators and freezers, made possible by a generous donor and a dedicated volunteer and raved about their ability to now store perishable items. Inside the main part of the food locker, volunteers filled bags, stocked shelves, carried produce and greeted guests. Each person received a welcoming smile from the volunteer crew (no paid staff), completed a short form with the number in their household and then waited for a volunteer to shop for them. Picture a miniature market: volunteers, complete with grocery carts and shopping lists, proceed up and down each aisle shopping for hungry families. Marylee shared that many of the volunteers are in their 70s and 80s and some volunteer beyond the food locker by visiting parishioners' homes. The church makes sure volunteer opportunities exist for all levels and ability and offer seated tasks such as bagging fruit and distributing bread to anyone with a mobility issue. Marylee wished for more volunteers (of any age) could help out during their twice per week distribution or assist with pickups from stores or SFBFS.
Several hundred people received food on this day thanks to the generosity of donors (parishioner often buy and donated cases of the most requested items), local volunteers and partners such as Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Marylee smiled when she shared how far the food locker has come over the last five decades, fondly recalling stories of how volunteers used to distribute food out of the bride’s dressing room.
In the coming years, the food closet hopes to expand to a larger area with more cold storage. The church plans to renovate some of the existing facilities (including an old convent) to make way for a larger gym for the school and food pantry for the community – made possible by a capital campaign.
I encourage anyone living in the Arden or Carmichael area to visit Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church on Walnut and Cottage to learn more about their incredible work in the community. And please consider helping out as a volunteer.
Kelly Siefkin, VP of Communications & Marketing
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services