The St. Hugh Ladies of Charity were determined to keep providing food to those in need in the greater Greenbelt area throughout these challenging times. When the “stay at home” order was issued by Gov. Larry Hogan, the St. Hugh LOC members talked with their pastor, Fr. Walter Tappe, to review the order. The order indicated that charitable organizations were exempt and volunteers could continue to provide services, i.e. food pantries to the community. Fr. Walter said “you need to stay open because the community needs our pantry more than ever now.”
The St. Hugh Pantry distributes food through the rectory staff Monday through Friday, 9am-2pm. One of the rectory staff members needed to work from home due to having a child out of school. An LOC member volunteered to work her 2 days at the rectory so that food distribution could continue 5 days a week.
The St. Hugh LOC got word out to the community through the Greenbelt News Review about the pantry remaining open. The community responded and increased their Coop Grocery Store $5 donation bags to 60-70 bags a week that go to the pantry. The community also started giving the St. Hugh LOC, Coop Grocery Store Gift Cards valued from $25-$100 to be given to pantry recipients to help them buy perishable foods. The community has donated over $10,000 in gift cards to date. Many people used their stimulus checks to buy gift cards.
The Greenbelt City Council also worked with the Green-belt Cares Office to utilize the Interfaith Good Samaritan Fund to collect community monetary donations to be given to St. Hugh Church for the pantry. Over $3,600 has been donated through this vehicle to the pantry to purchase food. The local Elks Organization donated $2,000 to the pantry.
Using the St. Hugh Church on-line communication system, Flock Notes, we held the Lenten Food Drive virtually. Parishioners either donated funds through check/Faith Direct to LOC to buy food or dropped off needed food items to the rectory outside food container.
St. Hugh LOC volunteers set up a safe way to prepare pantry food bags each week. They utilize 4-6 volunteers who are social distancing and using masks while preparing bags. The pantry family recipients have grown from 20 families to over 60 families a week being served. The volunteers (Barbara Hamilton, pan-try coordinator, Linda Kelley and Joseph Panossinan) increased their bag preparation days from one day to two days a week. The LOC volunteer shoppers (Ellen Hanyok and Mary Ann Tretler) go 1-2 days a week to the new Lidl Store in Greenbelt to supplement the food provided through the Coop Store. We have been able to get the quantities of food we need at Lidl’s without any restrictions. Shoppers there will stop us and say you must be shopping for a food pantry and frequently they hand us money to help buy food. LOC Volunteer, Peggy Compton, picks up donated bags at Coop Store 2x a week. LOC volunteers, Suzanne and Joe Lomax, prepare 40 “kid friendly” bags (Goldfish crackers, pudding, peanut butter crackers, gummie fruits, etc.) each Friday for the pantry. LOC Volunteers also deliver food bags to those homebound and make special arrangements for pantry families that aren’t able to come due to work schedules during the week for food. We also have a volunteer translator, Mirsa Shulma, who contacts Spanish recipients that don’t speak English to arrange food pick up.
During this very difficult time for many families it has been heartwarming and a great blessing to experience the incredible generosity of the Greater Greenbelt/St. Hugh Community. Pantry families with tears in their eyes express their profound gratitude for the food/gift cards and knowing that the community cares about them.
Submitted by: Regina Barrett—1st VP Prince George’s County LOC