St. Vincent de Paul food and clothing pantry re-opens at new Bloomington site
BLOOMINGTON — “The communion of saints has got to look an awful lot like this.”
So said Deacon Bob Hermes, spiritual adviser to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Holy Trinity Conference, as he looked April 1 at more than 50 volunteers gathered in the main distribution room of the conference’s new food and clothing pantry location.
Within minutes, those volunteers would open the doors to the first clients to be served at the pantries’ spacious new home — the former Corpus Christi (Holy Trinity) Junior High School building at 705 N. Roosevelt Ave., two blocks west of Holy Trinity Church. The building, not used as a school since Corpus Christi Catholic School united on a single campus on Lincoln St. in 2017, was remodeled during the past six months to serve as the new base for the largest Catholic-sponsored food pantry in the Diocese of Peoria.
The move enabled the food and clothing pantries — formerly located in a few rooms of the Holy Trinity Parish Center and in the church basement — to unite in one facility large enough to adequately serve the growing need in West Bloomington and throughout McLean County. The food pantry’s client list has expanded three-fold in the past three years with about 1,200 families (4,000 individuals) now served each month.
PRAYERS, BLESSINGS AND FAITH IN ACTION
Like all distribution Mondays, the opening day at the new site began with prayer.
“Thank you for all the saints who have joined in this tremendous effort to make this pantry possible to move us to the next level of service to the people you send to us,” prayed Deacon Hermes. “Be with each of these volunteers today and for the rest of their time with St. Vincent de Paul as they serve the poor and needy and support each other.”
Unlike most Mondays, however, on this day the volunteers reassembled outside and prayed with about 30 clients already lined up at the building’s entrance at 9 a.m. Deacon Hermes asked that God be with all those serving and being served, and that the clients take not only food and clothing home to their families, but “a message of God’s love and mercy” as well.
Such messages are not only symbolized and spoken by the pantries’ more than 180 volunteers, but are written on the new facility’s very walls. Guests are greeted by a quote from the Bible’s book of Deuteronomy in the foyer that reads “You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.” Other encouraging quotes are found as clients make their way to the main food distribution center, located in the former school gym, and to racks of women’s and men’s clothing, located in two former classrooms.
There are also several images of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron of the Society — a Catholic lay organization that leads men and women to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. While the Bloomington food pantry serves hundreds, each guest is accompanied through the food pantry by an accompanying volunteer.
GRATITUDE AND AN INVITATION
The first client through the door was Ladora Newby. She would be followed by more than 300 people on Monday — a total of 151 in the morning and 151 in the afternoon. The pantry is open on Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m.
“It’s so much roomier,” Newby told The Catholic Post as her grocery cart now filled with food was pushed out the door by a volunteer. “And so well organized.”
Turning to her accompanying volunteer, she added “I’m grateful you guys are here.”
Gratitude was a theme in brief remarks to the volunteers prior to Monday’s opening.
“We thank everybody for all they have done,” said Jim Tuite, president of the Holy Trinity Conference. “This would not have been possible without all of the hours of so many people.” He specially mentioned Deacon Hermes and Steve Nolan, who Tuite said were the first to “look at this school building and say ‘I think we can do remarkable things with it.’”
Among the guests present for the opening of the pantry were three representatives of the Diocesan St. Vincent de Paul Council — Cathy Wilhite of Lincoln, executive director; Chris Teuerle of Morton, president; and Don Taylor of Washington, vice president.
“It’s awesome,” said Teuerle of the new facility, which offers four times the refrigeration capacity and eight times the freezer capacity from the former location in the parish center. “It’s beautiful and I’m sure you’re all excited. Thank you to everybody who had any piece to make this happen — from the planning to the sending donations to the construction work. We thank God for all of you, and blessings on your wonderful food pantry and clothing pantry and also for sharing hope with the people in McLean County.”
Dorothy Deany, vice president of the Holy Trinity Conference, said the opening day went “amazingly well.”
“We were tired when evening arrived, but everyone thought it was a great day,” said Deany.
While donations covered most of the $350,000 cost of renovation, Deany said sustaining pledges are needed to cover expected and unexpected future expenses.
“We are thrilled with our building, but realistic in that it is a building that is more than 50 years old,” she said. Those wishing to support the food and clothing pantry can write a check to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Holy Trinity Conference and mail it to 711 N. Main St., Bloomington, IL 61701. For more information, call (309) 829-9611.
The renovated facility was formally blessed by Father Jeffrey Stirniman, administrator of Holy Trinity Parish, during ceremonies on Feb. 28.
EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the pantries’ opening day have been posted to an album on The Catholic Post’s Facebook site.