By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
BARDSTOWN, Ky. — Each Saturday morning, students from Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Ky., staff the Bread for Life community food pantry.
They perform tasks ranging from stocking shelves and taking inventory to checking clients in and assisting clients with food selection.
The pantry is an outreach ministry of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown.
Two of the students who regularly work at the food pantry said they felt empowered to take more responsibility after attending the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI), a five-day retreat program that provides teens with leadership development.
CLI, hosted by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, is one of the dozens of programs supported by the Catholic Services Appeal.
Olivia Bickett, a junior at Bethlehem, attended CLI during the summer of 2016 and said it “was one of the best experiences” she’s ever had.
“Throughout the week I was able to grow deeper in my faith as well as learn about how to be a better leader in my community, school and church,” Bickett said.
Bickett was already a regular volunteer with the Bread for Life food pantry at that point. Following her participation in CLI she became a teen manager for the pantry.
The managers schedule other teen volunteers and set the weekend schedule. They also train new volunteers in the pantry’s procedures, said Lauren Lee, also a Bethlehem junior and one of the pantry’s teen managers.
The Bread for Life pantry, 219 E. Muir St., is set up like a grocery store.
Clients walk through and select items, giving them “dignity and respect,” said Darryl Bryant, the pantry’s assistant manager, an adult.
It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon. Bethlehem students staff the Saturday shift. The pantry is open to residents of Nelson County who live below the poverty line.
Caroline Ball, a Bethlehem junior who also attended CLI in 2016, said her experience at CLI aided in the development of her leadership skills, as well as her faith.
“I took many skills back to the food pantry. I learned how to train other people and also how to help people that were coming in and to understand their life better,” she said.
Ball, who is also a teen manager at the pantry, said she continues to volunteer at the Bread for Life pantry because of the impact she has on the clients.
“I think the most rewarding part of my work is just seeing the smiles that I put on their faces and to let them know that they always have a friend in their corner cheering them on,” she said.
Lee agreed and said the presence of young people makes the pantry a warm and welcoming place for the clients to shop.
“It really helps to have younger faces because we remind them of their kids or grandkids. It’s as much a place to talk as it is to get some food,” Lee said.