Volunteering at the Social Action of Mater Dei Parish food shelf in Newport is a labor of love for the parishioners who distribute food to people in need.

“It’s a work of mercy. So many people have sad stories. You listen. You feel bad for them,” said Pauline Labor, food shelf coordinator. The people who receive the food “are very grateful and kind, and they thank us for what we do.”

The pantry, located in a heated garage attached to the rectory next to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport, is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays and serves about 150 people a year.

Parishioners donate non-perishable food and money to buy what more is needed.

Recently, the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation awarded the Social Action Ministry a $5,000 grant for the food shelf.

“The food shelf is part of Mater Dei’s assistance to the poor,” said Vocationist Father Rijo Johnson, pastor. “People run out of food. They need it.”

Volunteers at the food shelf also offer information on other emergency food sources in the area.

Father Johnson pointed out that the food shelf is a way for the parish to perform a corporal work of mercy — feed the hungry; the parish is engaged in the other works of mercy too like visiting the imprisoned and giving clothes to people who need them.

The food shelf is stocked with all kinds of nob-perishables like canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, rice, cereal, crackers, tuna, peanut butter and spaghetti sauce.

Recipients receive 16 items in a bag once a month.

“People come through the door and say they need (food),” Labor said. “And they receive it.”

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.