A half dozen volunteers and a handful of Catholic Charities staff gathered at the new Father Jack Jones Food Pantry the morning of May 7 to unload a truckful of donations, share a prayer and then stock its shelves with cans.
Located in the basement of the old rectory of Holy Name Church on South Third Street, the Dare to Care food pantry will serve the surrounding neighborhood, primarily the 40208 zip code.
The pantry, operated by Catholic Charities, is named for Father John E. Jones, who died in 2012 and was the founder of Dare to Care. The Archdiocese of Louisville priest was moved to action by the death of 9-year-old Bobby Ellis in 1969. The child died of malnutrition on the eve of Thanksgiving Day.
Father Jones began by driving his pickup truck around the city collecting food donations to distribute year-round to the city’s hungry residents.
He wanted to ensure “that another child will never starve to death in our community,” he wrote in a 1972 letter to pastors asking for their parishes’ support. He led Dare to Care until 1976.
On the cool morning of May 7, Kathy Hans and Sue and Don Hill, members of Holy Name, found themselves moved by the same desire to aid the city’s hungry as they walked over to the Father Jack Jones Food Pantry to volunteer.
“For the neighborhood, it’s awesome,” said Sue Hill, noting she, her husband and Hans have been members of Holy Name for more than 70 years. Her husband is a fifth-generation member. “We have so many homeless people at the Kroger stores.”
They were joined by Gracie and Susan Spalding from Holy Trinity Church, which is clustered with Holy Name, as well as volunteer Charles Wilcox, a caretaker at Holy Name, and a handful of others.
Catholic Charities hopes more people will join them so the pantry can expand its hours.
To begin with, it will only be open one day a week, said Pam Pusty, who has organized the pantry behind the scenes as the executive assistant to the CEO.
She told volunteers helping on May 7 that they would help guide the pantry’s growth.
“You’re going to dream with me,” she said. “We’re learning together. We’re going to do this as a team.”
That team will be crucial to helping the neighborhood’s poorest inhabitants.
“We need a strong food assistance presence in that area, especially the way the need has exploded in the last year,” said Stan Siegwald of Dare to Care. “The need was already high pre-COVID and it has jumped about 20 percent.
“About one in eight people were food insecure pre-COVID. It had improved to that point from the Great Recession. Now with COVID, it’s back to one in six,” he said.
Dare to Care estimates that 175,000 people in Greater Louisville are food insecure.
“That part of town has been one that’s been a challenge for us to reach for many years. Since the Great Recession, we began a mobile pantry (which visits the Holy Name campus once a month).
“A permanent pantry is a tremendous asset,” he said. “Whenever you can get a permanent location, where relationships can be built, it has the potential for a transformational impact — where lives can be changed for everyone involved.”
Volunteer Kathy Hans said she’s looking forward to the good she and other volunteers can do for the community.
“It makes you feel so good to be able to do something to help someone in need,” she said.
For now, the pantry will operate in the basement of the former rectory, a building owned by Holy Name that faces South Third Street, previously occupied by Doors to Hope. Holy Name has donated the use of the space.
Catholic Charities hopes to move the pantry into its new headquarters, which it is planning to build on the southwest corner of the campus it shares with Holy Name at Fourth Street and Heywood Avenue. The proposal currently faces a legal challenge related to razing existing buildings.
Eventually, Catholic Charities hopes to make the Father Jack pantry a choice pantry like Sister Visitor Center. A typical pantry gives clients a prepared bag of food, regardless of their individual needs. A choice pantry operates more like a grocery store; it gives clients the opportunity to select the items they need.
“We don’t have the room right now to be a choice pantry,” said Pusty. “This seemed to be the best way as we are waiting for the new building.”