Harvesting hope for neighbors in need

The St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) Food Pantry at St. Martin of Tours Church is stocked with the non-perishable items you’d expect … boxes of cereal, cans of soup, and jars of peanut butter. But this time of year, clients (referred to as “neighbors”) often get a surprise in their food bags — fresh fruits and vegetables, just picked from the St. Martin garden.DSCN4065

In 2012, Adam Freedy led construction and installation of the raised garden beds on the grounds of the church as an Eagle Scout project. A grant to the city of Cheviot helped with funding. A picture of the first harvest hangs on the wall of the food pantry. DSCN4437

Pantry volunteer Rita Costantino admits that the garden doesn’t look as good this year. They planted late, and rabbits and deer have done some serious damage. But watermelon, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and herbs are growing. They’ll put in spinach, peas, and broccoli soon.
DSCN4431When neighbors come to the food pantry, their children can see what’s growing in the garden. Many have never seen where foods like carrots and green beans come from, so it’s an eye-opening experience.

The SVdP pantry has been at St. Martin’s since the 1950s. “God has put us here to help one another,” Rita said. “This is the way we are able to do that. We see the face of God in everyone that comes through our door.”

Three adult volunteers in front of food pantry shelf
A few of the 20 volunteers who make the SVdP food pantry a success
(L-R: Bob Costantino, Carol Dragan, Rita Costantino).

The pantry serves 50-60 families per month. Many of those in need are single moms who need a little help. Others are people who lose their job when a plant closes or their company downsizes. “We also have a lot of grandmas raising their grandkids,” Rita said. “That’s where it hurts so much. They are supposed to be retired and enjoying the rest of their life and they are raising four and five year olds.”

The pantry has 20 volunteers who spend Wednesdays and Fridays stocking shelves and preparing bags of food to be given out when the pantry opens on Saturdays (10am-noon). Most of the food comes from parishioners. Parishioners also donate money, school supplies, items for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and Christmas gifts for families. St. Martin is “an older parish, not the richest parish, but very generous,” said volunteer Carol Dragan.

The SVdP pantry provides more than food. Neighbors can find information on job openings and community resources. There’s even a spot where you can sit to fill out job applications and make phone calls.DSCN4441 “We try to get people to the point where they can be self-sustaining, because that’s what they want,” Rita said. “We’ve had a lot of people who’ve become successes and they come back and donate.”

SVdP supports neighbors in need in so many ways. The garden, pantry, and volunteers truly help Cheviot to THRIVE!

The SVdP Food Pantry is open to anyone in the Cheviot area. Call the St. Martin Church office at 513-661-2000 and ask for the pantry. Volunteers return all calls on Wednesdays and Fridays.