Sacred Heart Sandwich Program fill bags with united effort

Photo Caption: Christine Kohrman, a volunteer assisting the Sacred Heart Sandwich Program and member of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Morton, pauses while the three food bags on her cart are filled with canned goods.

You won’t find them while dashing through the mall, but a full stomach and a full heart can be priceless gifts for those who are truly poor.

With the help of students, parishioners and merchants in Peoria and Morton, the Sacred Heart Sandwich Program was able to provide 500 of those gifts in the form of red canvas bags filled with ham, non-perishable food items and personal care products for people in need. In the process, the volunteers also hope to touch hearts and remind them that someone cares about them.

“We could easily have expanded it to 600 baskets this year,” said Claire Crone, who oversees the sandwich program, also known as Sophia’s Offering from Angels. “The truly poor are really struggling.”

For at least one week they won’t struggle as much, thanks to the program. The bags of food were delivered to about 50 elderly people or given away to those who requested them on Dec. 19, 20 and 21.

Making certain those stomachs were filled were Russ and Pat Waldschmidt, who donated 450 hams, and Haddad’s Market in West Peoria, which ordered and delivered food to St. Joseph’s parish hall for Crone. More than 1,200 cans or boxes of food were collected in less than a week by the students at Holy Family School in Peoria and the eighth-graders from St. Mark’s School gave up a Saturday morning to sort the food and fill the canvas bags, which came from three sources.

A $500 grant from 4Imprint, for example, allowed them to buy 200 bags and have the program’s name and logo printed on them, according to Crone.

“The boxes were too bulky and people told us they couldn’t take the boxes on the bus,” she explained. “Paper bags tear and so do plastic bags.”

Also lending a hand with sorting food and filling the bags were participants from the recent retreat weekend at Blessed Sacrament in Morton.

“It was great to spend the time on a spiritual level and now to do something together,” said Rick Barbour, director of family faith formation at Blessed Sacrament.

“We were told to think outside ourselves and this is definitely outside ourselves,” he said as he prepared to put canned goods in the canvas bags that were coming his way.

“The thought of helping people as a community makes me feel good inside,” added fellow parishioner Suzette Massey, who brought her husband, Greg, and daughters Alexa and Audrina with her to fill the bags. “It’s the least we can do.”

The students at Peoria Notre Dame donated an additional 50 bags of food, Crone said.

That much help is needed to look over every can and box to determine if the food is still fresh and that the integrity of the packaging hasn’t been compromised.

“We give them the best quality that we can,” Crone told The Catholic Post. “We’re always working on getting the nutrition up.”

The Sacred Heart Sandwich Program serves as many as 500 people every day in the winter. Those numbers often increase to 800 or 1,000 in the summer, when children do not have access to school lunch programs, she said.

“The need is there all year long,” Crone said.

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