Toussaint Scholars Gala Funds Go a Long Way at Parish Food Pantries

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Lorrin Johnson never worries about the food pantry at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Frances of Rome, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony and Our Lady of Grace being empty because “something else shows up.”

Like the $2,500 in grant money the food pantry received for the holiday season from the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund college scholars.

“I’m very grateful to them for helping us be what we are and what we are able to do in our neighborhood,” Ms. Johnson told CNY.

The Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Virtual Gala raised $115,000 in November and the college scholars decided to donate part of the gala proceeds to food pantries in the archdiocese. Five parishes—St. Luke’s, the Bronx; St. Joseph and St. Boniface, Spring Valley; St. Charles Borromeo, Resurrection and All Saints, Manhattan; St. Rita of Cascia, the Bronx; and St. Frances of Rome, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony and Our Lady of Grace, the Bronx—were given a combined $11,000 in grant money for their food pantries.

“All went well, as the committee of 13 Pierre Toussaint Scholars met via Zoom to carefully review the applications and render decisions,” said Leah Dixon, associate director of the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund and Program. 

“They also discussed who would draft the decision letters and which scholars would be assigned to the awarded parishes to follow up and remain in contact, with the hopes of hopefully having some scholars volunteer at their parish pantry in the future.”

Grant money at the food pantry located at St. Frances of Rome, which opens twice a month, was used to stock the food pantry with fresh foods such as produce and meat.

The food pantry benefited from other grant money, assistance from the Marist Brothers and volunteers, food donors and food drives at schools, such as the 300 boxes of cereal collected in November at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx.

Ms. Johnson, who has served as director of the food pantry since 2010, is grateful for the additional money and food as 550 people visit the food pantry each month, compared to 150 before the pandemic.

She said about 35 percent of the visitors are people aged 65 and over, and the remaining visitors are families with children before adding more people are coming now from beyond the food pantry’s neighborhood.

“We are totally grateful for all of the donations,” Ms. Johnson said. “We have never run out of food and we never had to turn anyone away.”

Father Levelt Germain has been pastor for seven years at St. Joseph and St. Boniface parish where the grant money was used to help feed 250 families Thanksgiving dinner. He said a hot meal was served in past years, but this year a turkey and a bag of groceries were given to each family due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Father Germain said the food was distributed on the Monday before Thanksgiving when people began lining up about three hours before the food pantry opened at 9 a.m.

“It showed how much of a need there was and how appreciative the people were,” Father Germain said.

“We were not expecting (the grant). We applied for it and were granted $2,500. We were grateful and expressed our gratitude in the letter (sent to the scholarship fund committee). One of the main missions of our food pantry is to share our blessings with others. We were very grateful to be helped where the need was great and people needed it.”

Father Fred Agyeman, parochial vicar of St. Luke’s, applied for assistance and received $2,500 for the parish food pantry.

“We are grateful. It’s a blessing. It’s been a difficult and challenging time,” Father Agyeman said. “The money was a welcome to help a lot of people who otherwise would not have gotten the food on their table to add on to what they have.

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