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Giving groceries

Denise Lavigne, coordinator of St. Ann Food Shelf in Milton, adds a can of food to a bag to be distributed to people in need. (Vermont Catholic/Cori Fugere Urban) Denise Lavigne, coordinator of St. Ann Food Shelf in Milton, adds a can of food to a bag to be distributed to people in need.
A bag of groceries can make a big difference for a family that is facing financial difficulties.
At St. Ann Church in Milton, parishioners know that and support a food shelf that helps scores of households with food and toiletries.
“It’s part of our ministry – to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Denise Lavigne, coordinator of St. Ann Food Shelf. “It is what we [Catholics] are taught to do. We try to help in our community, and it’s without judgment. There’s a need, and we want to fill it.”
The year before last, the food shelf distributed 354 bags -- or 4,017 pounds -- of food and 211 toiletry bags. In last September and October alone, the parish helped 44 families (comprised of 69 adults and 34 children) with food bags and toiletry items.
After 25-30 years of having a food shelf, volunteers have a smooth system that entails food collections and drives, financial donations and volunteers who shop, sort, stock shelves and pack the bags of foods and toiletries.
The bags are packed in the church hall, and each weekday enough are brought to the parish office to accommodate the anticipated needs for the day. Seven teams (10 volunteers) take charge of the food shelf one or two months a year. Allan Boucher oversees the toiletry portion.
“Their enthusiasm is fantastic. They want to help,” Lavigne said.
Some volunteer shoppers use coupons to stretch the funds donated to buy items, and one store gives a 10 percent discount to help the food shelf.

Recipients may get one food bag once a week and a toiletry bag once a month.
Food bags always include at least 16 items with staples like cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables, canned fruits, peanut butter and soup. Another item is added when available from food donations.
Toiletry bags include toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, dental floss and a bar of soap.
Some recipients access the donations as often as allowed as it is part of their monthly budget, Lavigne said. Others access them on an as-needed basis.
Some days are busier than others with requests; “it’s very unpredictable,” Lavigne said.
In addition to food and toiletries, the food shelf has some financial aid available to help Milton residents once a year with emergency needs like electricity and heating fuel.
“In the past fiscal year we helped 28 families. So far this fiscal year we have helped 15 families, and we are not even halfway through the year,” Lavigne said last fall.
This money comes from the same charitable account that is used to purchase food.
Some people are “overjoyed” to receive help from the parish, she added, and “everybody is happy to help.”
Last modified onMonday, 23 January 2017 19:27
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