By Tony DeGol
The Catholic Register
Ah, these days after Thanksgiving when our scales remind us that we really did not need to indulge in those extra helpings of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.
Some people only wish they had that problem.
According to Benedictine Father Thaddeus Rettger, Pastor of Saint Bernard Parish in Hastings, about one in four families in the northern part of Cambria County qualify for some type of food assistance.
That is why he and a dedicated group of volunteers are so eager to spread the word about a great new resource to feed the hungry.
The grand opening of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul/Saint Bernard Food Pantry was held on Saturday, November 17.
The effort began more than a year and a half ago when the SVDP Food Pantry in Carrolltown was on the verge of closing, Father Rettger recalled.
The parish stepped in to help, and eventually learned that the pantry would have to relocate.
It was determined that it would be more cost efficient to build a new building rather than rent space in an existing building.
The new pantry, located at 139 Huber Street in Hastings, serves residents in Hastings, Carrolltown, Nicktown, Northern Cambria, St. Benedict, and surrounding areas.
“With a new facility, we intend to serve our people far into the foreseeable future,” Father Rettger assured. “The need is great.”
The numbers prove it.
Each month, the pantry serves about 144 families, 253 individuals, 97 children, and 60 seniors.
“We see the image and likeness of God in the hungry, and we intend to give them food,” promised Father Rettger.
Volunteers have been the backbone of the transition from the former location to the new site.
“We’ve been really lucky, really blessed,” admitted Nancy McMullen, director of the pantry. “It’s gone quite smoothly, and we’re really proud of the new facility and that it has come together so quickly.”
Among those who are partnering with the pantry are Food for Families, the Greater Food Bank of Pittsburgh, the Johnstown Food Bank, United Way, several government programs, local churches and schools, farmers, and civic organizations.
The pantry is seeking support through private monetary donations. Individuals and groups are also invited to collect non-perishable food to donate to the pantry.
“Food is one of the biggest expenses, obviously, with the pantry, and we’re always looking for new avenues to receive some items,” McMullen said.
Folks are also encouraged to donate their time and talent by volunteering at the site.
And, of course, prayers are always welcomed.
The new food pantry comes at a time of year when everyone seems a little more determined to make sure no one goes hungry, and the commitment on the part of Father Rettger and the volunteers is strong.
“Those that need it, we’re here,” offered Father Rettger. “Our heart and soul are in it.”