Youth are called to help fill food pantry shelves

The challenge has been made, and youth groups are stepping up to the pantry door to respond.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone recently supported the second competition to collect food for those in need. This time he is calling on youth in all the churches to collect boxed and canned food to help an outreach in their community.

Participants will have seven days, from Oct. 17-24, to gather as many staples as possible, according to a flyer detailing the Youth Ministry Stuff the Pantry Project.

And don’t worry about how many people are in the group. A small club has just as much chance of winning as a super-sized one, said Amanda Nixon, administrative assistant for the diocesan youth office.

To make it fair, each group will weigh their collection at the end of the week and take a picture showing all the participants and the food. Then the weight will be divided by the number of people who helped collect it.

Nixon said photos are due by Oct. 28 and 15 groups have signed up so far.

The youth office has set a goal of at least 7,500 pounds of food from all the contestants.

“We’re trying to fill up pantries, because we know they’re low, so families will have something on the upcoming holidays,” Nixon said.

Plenty of organizations collect food for those in need, including churches and outreach centers.

Most groups that provide necessities to folks in need continue to be hard hit, with more and more people coming in every day. Officials said they are keeping up with demand, but it is a struggle.

Brother Ed Bergeron, parish life facilitator at St. John Church in North Charleston, said the number of calls they receive asking for help has gone up tremendously — from 10 a week a year ago to 10 a day now.

“An awful lot of our clients are retired elderly. They need help to get through the last couple days of the month,” Brother Ed said.

The Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Center on Johns Island is also busier than ever, according to Sister Carol Wentworth, OLM.

Sister Carol said they serve about 80 families a month. Some have lost their jobs while others can’t make their money stretch as far as they used to and now have to choose between food, medicine and paying the bills.

She praised all their generous donors, including the farmers who donate their overabundance. Sister Carol also urged everyone to keep contributing anything people can use to feed their families.

“Food is something people always need, and we can always use it,” she said.

Don Glover, the bishop’s chef, said winners of the Stuff the Pantry contest will receive some personal time with Bishop Guglielmone. The group will determine the type of meeting — such as a question-and-answer session — and the type of meal to go with it.

The bishop’s first food drive was held last year. Five Charleston schools participated in “Mickey’s Christmas Mission” and collected 6,750 pounds of food. Charleston Catholic School was the winner.