When it comes to the Corporal Works of Mercy, we are given numerous examples in the Gospel of Matthew — “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Catholic Church teaching lists seven Corporal Works of Mercy that are based on this Scripture passage — feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, bury the dead, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and give alms to the poor.
Donating food or funding to the Hancock County Food Pantry is one very tangible way to take part in the Corporal Works of Mercy. Giving of your time alongside the 50 other volunteers that come from St. Michael is another way to practically serve those in our community who are in need of help.
St. Michael parishioner Howard Green is the current President of the Food Pantry Board.
“A big part of feeding the hungry and serving the community is through donations and assisting the clients of the pantry,” he says. “We are serving them and helping them get through tough times. It is the time and talent that people bring here to serve our clients. The treasure is just the added benefit.”
The Food Pantry is currently facilitating a capital campaign as they have expanded and purchased their own building after renting a space since the beginning of their operations. This new building allows them to better serve the client base that has doubled in the last three years.
“We keep track of the different people that we serve in the area,” Howard says. “Our clients can visit the pantry a maximum of two times per month. I find it very interesting that when we break down the numbers, we see that only about 1.2 percent of our clients came 24 times in one year. Seventy-two percent utilize our services six times or less per year. That tells me that we have people in our community who are truly in need of our services and not just taking advantage of the system. They come to us when they need us and that is exactly what we are here for. People come here for food to feed their families and God takes care of the rest.”
The Food Pantry is operated entirely on a volunteer basis, and the funds to operate come from individuals, companies, service organizations, and a few grants.
“Hancock County is an incredibly generous and giving place and St. Michael is an important part of that,” Howard says.
Volunteers at the pantry fill a number of different roles, from unloading trucks to packing boxes of food or bringing the goods out to the clients’ vehicles.
“I have been volunteering at the Food Pantry for almost a year and it is really something I look forward to doing,” says Connie Hibbert. “It is not only a way to give back to those in need, but also the opportunity to work with some of the phenomenal people at St. Michael. It is hard work, but we really enjoy it.
“We have a certain number of boxes that need to be packed and we work to finish that before we leave,” she adds. “This particular work is behind the scenes, but I know when we come back and the boxes are gone that we have touched that number of people. It is a laid-back atmosphere and the people you are working alongside make it very enjoyable work.”
At Christmastime, when Connie’s grandchildren are visiting, they join her at the pantry to help out as well.
“We should always be giving of ourselves in some way,” Connie says. “The children see you doing that and you hope that it becomes ingrained that this is what you do. I am making an impact in the fact that I am bringing these people food and boxing it up so they can take it. That is what Jesus wants us to do in any way, shape, or form that I can.
“Last year, one of my granddaughters said that she wants to find a food pantry to work at when she gets home to Texas,” she adds. “That is the love of service to others that we hope to instill in our children and grandchildren.”
Many other parishioners have found that this tangible way of fulfilling the Corporal Works of Mercy is a rewarding way of giving of their time. Jane and Van Hemmerlein have been volunteering for one hour a week at the pantry for over 10 years.
“When our children graduated and went to college, we found ourselves with a little more time, but since we both still work, the hours that we are available were limited,” Jane says. “They posted in the bulletin that they needed volunteers for one hour a week so we started going in and packing boxes of food on Thursday evenings from 7-8 p.m.”
The extensive need for food pantry services in Hancock County was eye-opening to the Hemmerleins when they started.
“It is very humbling to meet others who are working so hard to put food on the table for their families,” Jane says. “Interacting with the clients and getting to serve them in this way makes me grateful for the blessings that I do have and want to give back to help others who need it. Seeing the impact that it has on others makes it so rewarding.”
On the first Sunday of each month, St. Michael
collects food for the Food Pantry. There are also volunteer opportunities for anyone interested. This incredible service is a special way to serve those in need and give back to God with grateful hearts.
To find out more on how to volunteer, donate, or receive assistance through the
Hancock County Food Pantry, visit: stmichaelsgrfld.org/hancock-county-food-pantry.