Guppy moves on as parish sandwich program relocates

It started with a simple request from one of the friars: “If anyone comes to the door, make a nice big sandwich for them.”

At first, housekeeper Sharon Litchfield thought he was kidding her. Who would come to the door of Sacred Heart Church in Peoria looking for a sandwich?

But he said the same thing as he was leaving the next day and sure enough, someone knocked.

“Pretty soon it was not unusual for there to be one a day or even two,” said Guppy, as she is known to her wide circle of friends. “Then the program expanded — a lot.”

Today Sacred Heart’s sandwich program has three dozen volunteers who put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a meat sandwich, a dessert — sweet or salty “depending on what the Lord provides” — and something to drink in the hands of 200 to 600 people every day, from Monday through Friday.

Based in the tiny kitchen in the old friary at the downtown Peoria church for many years, the program moved to the newly remodeled parish hall and its commercial grade kitchen at St. Joseph’s Church on March 24. Both parishes are staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati.

St. Joseph’s is only about seven blocks away from Sacred Heart and located near many of the community services their clients use, Guppy noted. She said she expects the number of people seeking a sack lunch to increase.

Because much of the renovation work at St. Joseph’s was funded by the family of the late Sophia Donald, a child who died in an accident several years ago, her portrait graces the entrance of the parish hall. The kitchen has been named “Sophia’s Offering from Angels,” which is also embroidered on the aprons of the volunteers.

With the move to the new location, Guppy, 68, decided it was time to step down as coordinator of the sandwich program. While she will remain involved as needed, she has turned the reins over to Claire Crone, who also works as a secretary at Sacred Heart.

“I think Claire will be great at it,” Guppy said with a smile.

She’s not worried about finding enough to keep her busy at Sacred Heart. “I have discovered that when one job ends, the Lord sends another,” she said.

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