6/28/2014 2:39:00 PM Pantry expands to meet increased need
Catholic Sentinel photos by Bob Kerns
Holy Cross Church pastor Fr. Mark Bachmeier blesses the church's freshly remodeled St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.
Holy Cross parishioners get their first glimpse inside the church's newly remodeled St. Vincent de Paul food pantry: Maggie Kerns, Nancy Wissbaum, Betty Lageson, Raina Briare and Anna Lageson-Kerns. And at the freezer door, Caitlin Briare and Kathy Kuffner.
A partnership between a Catholic parish and a non-profit agency means more low-income people will be fed in North Portland.
The St. Vincent de Paul pantry at Holy Cross Parish already is the busiest food distribution site in the district, serving 35 to 40 families per week. That total is four times the levels from 1999, when Holy Cross opened its pantry in a bay of the parish garage. The space was overloaded with food and guests. Food supplies ran out before the end of the week because storage space was limited.
But Rebuilding Together, a helping agency based at nearby University of Portland, came through with $18,000 in donated material and labor, adding the rest of the garage to the pantry.
“We were stepping over ourselves,” says Steve Spitulski, who leads the St. Vincent de Paul group at Holy Cross. “The increased need required more space.”
Jim Kuffner, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul group and an assistant vice president at UP, asked Rebuilding Together to consider adding the Holy Cross project to its list. Contractors poured a concrete floor, wired the building and put in a drop ceiling.
The Portland St. Vincent de Paul leadership offered a grant for additional gear like refrigerators. Some funds came from the estate of the late George Fortun, who had been a Vincentian at Holy Cross.
Spitulski says the end of the recession has not reduced the number of people in North Portland who need food. Volunteers are seeing more people with jobs who cannot make ends meet.
“They are right on the fringe,” he says. “If anything goes wrong, they are in trouble.”
Spitulski helped one woman with rent after she had a car problem. He then invited her to come get food so she could save up some money for other needs.