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Volunteer Connection 4-14-19

Volunteer Bridget Pettinger, left, assists RSVP volunteers Stan Olszewski, center, and Mike Quinn at the St. Vincent DePaul Society Pantry in Racine.

In January 2014, the St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Pantry closed after a fire caused considerable smoke and water damage to the building. The effects of the closure were wide and immediate. Suddenly, more than 400 hungry families or individuals were faced with finding other suitable grocery alternatives and a cadre of volunteers lost their volunteer assignments.

The Pantry reopened Oct. 1, 2014, complete with an enlarged space for volunteers and hungry families. New ceiling, plumbing and electrical systems, rows of sturdy shelving, and fresh paint were provided by many volunteers. A couple who are very active at the pantry donated a tile floor for the pantry area.

Nearly five years later, the St. Vincent de Paul Society Pantry is a beehive of activity, serving more than 200 clients in a month. The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Volunteers welcome recipients and document eligibility before packing and wheeling provisions to cars in the parking lot or helping those who walk pack their bags, wagons or carts. This year, donations of mittens, hats and socks have also been available for pantry recipients.

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Some volunteers come from the original Catholic parishes that started the pantry, St. John, St. Joseph, Sacred Heart, St. Rita and St. Patrick and others come from St. Paul the Apostle, The Church of the Latter Day Saints and Lakeside Curative. The activity in the pantry extends far beyond nine hours a week. Other volunteers work when the pantry is not open, checking in donations, stocking shelves and assembling bags of groceries for distribution the next day. RSVP-Racine, sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Racine Inc. under a grant from the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS), has more than 80 volunteers working at the pantry.

The pantry maintains a log of recipients who have completed required paper work and received distributions from the pantry. The Racine County Food Bank and Community Action Agency of Kenosha and Racine provide monthly delivery of selected items, and monthly parish donations and business donations help keep the pantry’s shelves full. Both organizations play an important role in maintaining the viability and integrity of the pantry’s program by using the Pantry’s monthly report to determine the amount of food to be delivered to the pantry for the next month.

Five years after reopening, St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Food Pantry project is a dynamic community innovator providing mutual satisfaction to its volunteers and clientele. If people need additional help beyond food the volunteers direct them to the appropriate agency for assistance.

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