Our Lady Star of the Sea opens food pantry

Food pantry

Food pantryNORTH MYRTLE BEACH—“Times are hard, and a lot of people need help.”
That’s how a client sums up the purpose of the Santa Chiara’s Food Pantry, which opened Sept. 14 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church.
Open five days a week, the pantry is an important new source of help for the increasing number of needy residents in North Myrtle Beach and the nearby towns of Little River and Longs.
Many lack transportation and have difficulty getting to other area services.
It is also the only “client choice” pantry currently operating in Horry County, according to Deacon Peter M. Casamento, pastoral associate and director of outreach ministry for the parish.
Instead of being handed a box or bag full of pre-selected food, a client can walk the aisles with a volunteer and make their own choices.
“Client choice restores dignity and respect,” Deacon Casamento said. “It also helps if the client can pick food they and their family will actually eat, so food doesn’t end up getting wasted.”
The pantry is the result of more than a year of planning, fundraising and prayer.
“God’s hand was in this project,” the deacon said. “Things worked out for us when we needed them.”
Dozens of volunteers have signed up to work the pantry, donated food or money, and helped out in other ways.
One parishioner found a store that was going out of business and bought all of the shelving for only $200. Another donated money for a large freezer.
The pantry receives goods from monthly food drives and other donations. Cash contributors help purchase supplies from the Lowcountry Food Bank’s warehouse in Myrtle Beach. 
Santa Chiara’s is in partnership with North Strand Helping Hand and Catholic Charities. Both groups direct clients to the pantry, but people do not need a referral. Walk-ins are welcome.
The pantry’s clients are young and old.  On a recent afternoon, a father selected food for his four children, while a young woman who had recently been laid off filled out forms at the front window.
“The people we serve are so nice and polite, so appreciative,” said volunteer Marilee Toomey, who also cooks for the parish soup kichen. “You know you’re doing something good because they make you feel that way.”
Bob and Flo Long of Longs worked together to fill clients’ carts. They walked with each person to select food, packed it and helped clients carry it to their cars.
Mrs. Long said they have been volunteering at the church for more than 15 years.
“The people we serve are happy to get the food and that’s what counts,” she said.
Santa Chiara’s Food Pantry is open 1-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday,  9 a.m. to noon Saturday, and closed Thursday and Sunday.
Our Lady Star of the Sea is located at 1100 Eighth Ave. N. Call (843) 249-2356 for more information.