SANFORD---What began in the parish office over three years ago as a small food collection for people in need will take a big step forward later this week.
The St. Thérèse Food Closet will move to its new location at the St. Ignatius Gym, located on 25 Riverside Avenue in Sanford, on Thursday, January 9. The food closet is open every Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Currently, the program feeds around 50 adults and children each week, with the USDA’s Child and Adult Food Care Program serving as its primary source.
“Parishioners, civic groups, and anonymous benefactors donate gift cards to grocery stores, canned food items, and money to purchase additional items,” said Barbara Russell, coordinator of the food closet.
The food closet had humble beginnings, operating out of the parish office from its inception in August of 2016. A year later, insufficient donations threatened to shut the program down. Barbara volunteered to take over coordinating the program in 2017 and got right to work. New volunteers were recruited, new sources of food donations were secured, and a system of tracking donations, inventory, and clients was established.
“We got the word out in the parish through the parish’s weekly bulletin,” said Barbara. “Weekly requests for specific items were more successful than a general list. We also cooperate and exchange food with other community food banks to help each other.”
Soon, 12 additional volunteers had joined the cause and when the door to the USDA program opened up a path to 1,300 pounds of food each month, the sky was the limit.
“The St. Ignatius Gymnasium is a great location for many reasons. By keeping the inventory on a first-floor location, the safety issue stemming from volunteers being forced to carry boxes of canned goods up and down a narrow winding stair case each week is eliminated,” said Barbara. “In addition, inventory can now be easily moved through the use of a mobile shelving unit and the new location can accommodate two freezers and a waiting area for clients.”
As the food closet expands, more assistance from the community is needed to keep this benevolent initiative growing.
Donations for the food closet can also be dropped off each weekend before Masses at Holy Family Church (66 North Avenue in Sanford) and Notre Dame Church (10 Payne Street in Springvale). Items always in need are baked beans, small cans of tuna, and peanut butter.
If you are able to volunteer for the program or would like to make a monetary donation to support its mission, contact Barbara at (603) 970-0306.