By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
SAMUELS, Ky. — Next Wednesday parishioners from St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky., will help distribute food to the hungry at the Nelson County Fairgrounds — aid the small parish has been providing since last autumn.
The food distribution is part of the Feeding America program, a national non-profit organization made up of a network of regional food banks.
In Nelson County, the food is distributed on the last Wednesday of each month and parishioners from St. Gregory have committed to staffing two distributions a year, according to parishioner Justin D. Miller.
Feeding America was created in 2001 with the merger of America’s Second Harvest and Food Chain. According to the organization’s website, more than 37 million people — including 14 million children and 3 million seniors — received food donations from Feeding America last year.
Last fall 50 parishioners from St. Gregory volunteered at the Feeding America monthly distribution that gave away 20,000 pounds of food to 629 families, Tina Disselkamp, also a member of St. Gregory parish, said in a phone interview this week.
Disselkamp, the coordinator of volunteers for St. Gregory, said she’s amazed at the need for food and also at the selflessness of the volunteers.
“The need has blown me away. (At the November event) record numbers of food were given away. But, the number of volunteers was a record too,” she said.
The food distribution takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, she said, but volunteers arrive around 7 a.m. to prepare boxes of food to be distributed to seniors who are home bound. The food arrives on large pallets and volunteers form an assembly line along a conveyer belt where they “bag groceries,” Disselkamp explained. They load cereal, bakery items, meat, canned goods and condiments into boxes.
Donations are distributed to cars in a drive-thru fashion. Volunteers load the boxes of food into the cars and another volunteer checks off voucher forms, Disselkamp said.
“It’s pretty fast paced,” she noted. “Just as fast as we are unloading boxes of food to sort we are reusing the boxes to load up donations.”
Disselkamp said she and other parish volunteers have tried to involve students in the parish school in the volunteer effort as much as possible. At the last Feeding America event St. Gregory hosted, more than half of the 50 volunteers were students from St. Gregory School, she said.
“They worked the whole time without complaining. There was a fourth-grader that loaded 10-pound bags of chicken for four hours and never complained,” she said.
The need in the community is great, Disselkamp said, but so is the spirit of giving.
“A lot of people are having a hard time but a lot of people are helping as well,” she noted.
Disselkamp said St. Gregory wants to continue to be involved in the food-giving charity because the parish feels no one should go hungry.
“For people not to have their basic needs met makes the rest of their life hard,” she said. “You can’t come to your full potential if your basic needs aren’t met.”
To learn more about Feeding America, visit feedingamerica.org.