The meal service program at St. Mark Church in Burlington — one of the largest parish-based meals programs in the Diocese of Burlington — is keeping food warm and cold as needed more efficiently thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation.

Funds were used to buy a warming oven and a freezer as well as a large mixer.

The equipment is being used for the numerous free-meal programs overseen by Deacon Tim Gibbo and his wife, Tina. These include Thanksgiving meals, Salvation Army and Dismas House meals, monthly parish dinners and Lenten soup meals. Deacon Gibbo hopes to add a Christmas dinner for shut-ins to the menu of meal offerings.

“These ministries are growing so much,” said Deacon Gibbo, who serves at St. Mark’s. “The grant makes life a lot easier.”

Some of the meal programs are interfaith or ecumenical efforts.

He said “scripture tells us to give the best we possibly can,” so the new equipment will help volunteers do that, ensuring meals are delivered hot, for example. “We try to do everything top notch.”

Parishioners make cards, for example, to be delivered with the hundreds of Thanksgiving meals. One man has kept all the cards he has received over the years and displayed them on a wall. “We can’t be too busy with the dinners that we forget the little things,” Deacon Gibbo said. “The food will be gone in a day or two, but the cards can be there 365 days a year.”

The Gibbos have been involved in parish life for years and see their service as a response to Jesus’ call to work in the vineyard. “God has each one of us here for a special reason,” the deacon said.

Laurie Detore, one of the St. Mark’s meal volunteers, said that the grant for new equipment makes the meal programs “more efficient for people to do the Lord’s work.”

Feeding the hungry is a Corporal Work of Mercy, and it is a work for everyone to do, Deacon Gibbo said.

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