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Parish outreach programs continue helping hungry in Diocese of Wilmington as requests for assistance increase

Holy Rosary Parish in Claymont is collecting food each Wednesday from noon-1 p.m. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

Parish outreach programs in the Diocese of Wilmington say they are holding up during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but donations are needed to assist the increase in requests that are arriving.

Alex Handy of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Easton, Md., said about eight people are volunteering at their food pantry. They will remain open as long as they can.

“Obviously, hunger doesn’t go away,” he said on March 31.

Since the start of the pandemic in mid-March, the Vincentians have served more than 300 families from Talbot County, Md., Handy said. Clients must be a resident of that county, and they are allowed to come twice a month.

Handy said the food is coming from a few sources. Parishioners can donate nonperishables, and the Maryland Food Bank is available. Cisco, the food distributor, also has been able to help out. Handy said local supermarkets normally donate food that is near expiration, “but now they don’t have a lot to give away.”

One nontraditional source of donations has emerged during the crisis. Handy said a caterer in Federalsburg, Md., recently donated six pallets of food.

“All sorts of gourmet things, like coconut-crusted tilapia. We’ve been giving that away” to clients, he said.

Jamie Moulthrop of St. John the Beloved Parish in Wilmington said the food pantry the parish operates with several other local churches is still open at Community of Christ Church. However, clients are not allowed into the pantry.

“We’re doing the best we can in terms of minimizing contact with clients,” Moulthrop said. “As the weather gets nicer, we plan on doing some things outside.”

At Holy Rosary Parish in Claymont, the outreach office is open Mondays and Thursdays by appointment only, said the pastor, Father John Gayton.

Only two people are allowed into the outreach area at the same time, and they must be in different rooms, he said. Father Gayton estimated the parish has enough food available for another month. At this point, no new clients are being accepted.

“We can’t take on any new clients because we can’t do intake,” he said.

The parish can purchase food from the Food Bank of Delaware if the need arises. Without Masses being held, Holy Rosary has shifted its method of food donations. Each Wednesday from noon-1 p.m., donations will be accepted in front of the church. On April 1, a steady stream of cars arrived at the parish to place items in the back of a pickup truck.

Holy Rosary also will be giving away $50 gift cards for the local Food Lion, according to Father Gayton. Those are not intended exclusively for existing outreach clients.

One other New Castle County parish outreach, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear, has seen an increase in requests, said the coordinator, Mary Ann Schexnayder. Instead of one a week, they’re seeing one or two a day.

“Before the crisis started, we had so much food, I had to put in our bulletin to ask parishioners not to bring food,” she said.

People in need of assistance should call the parish and provide information, including the size of the family.

The parish is also accepting donations. The office is open from 9 a.m.-noon weekdays. Donors are asked to just leave their goods in the gathering space.

“I suspect at some point we might run out of food, but right now we’re okay,” Schexnayder said.

St. Elizabeth School hosted a food collection on March 31 on Cedar Street in Wilmington. The collected items, enough to fill two 12-passenger vans, will go to the Food Bank of Delaware. (Photos courtesy of Caitlin Papili, St. Elizabeth School)

Moulthrop said the outreach at Community of Christ Church could use their assistance, either with food or monetary gifts. The church is located at 1205 Milltown Road, Wilmington.

“We’ve been lucky and blessed that people are still finding us and dropping stuff off, but it’s not on the scale that we have at Masses,” he said.

One parish, St. John the Apostle in Milford, has shut down its outreach during the pandemic in the name of caution.

“Unfortunately, because all of our volunteers are 65 and older and have underlying health issues or are caring for someone that does, we had to make the decision to close our pantry,” she wrote in an email, adding that they did so “with a heavy heart.”

But the others plan to continue as long as they have the food and can remain healthy while doing so.

“We’re determined to stay open and help people out as long as this lasts,” Moulthrop said.