March 27, 2020 - Human needs continue during this time of pandemic and social distancing. In response, the Social Ministry office of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Mo., is recruiting volunteers and professionals to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the parish community. Services range from telephone counseling to food distribution.
Recognizing that the need for supplemental food for low-income individuals and families has not diminished during this time of pandemic and social distancing, the parish food pantry is continuing their ministry while practicing social distancing.
“We are now open three days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.,” said Sue Robb, the parish’s pastoral associate for justice and life. “We are a unique food bank. People can call in and place their ‘orders’ based on what we have in stock. Volunteers then package boxes and bring them directly to the people’s cars.”
Staffed primarily by volunteers from St. Francis Xavier and the neighboring Visitation Parish, the food bank purchases food from Second Harvest Food Bank. “Just this week, six volunteers unpacked and shelved more than 1,000 pounds of food for distribution,” Ms. Robb said.
In a few months, food boxes will also include fresh vegetables grown in the 20-bed garden on parish grounds. This week, while maintaining safe social distancing, volunteers are refurbishing the beds to prepare them for spring planting. Starters of collard greens, beets, cabbage, broccoli, greens and turnips are nearly ready for volunteers to plant. Thirty volunteers have signed up to help water, weed, pick and weigh the produce, which should be ready by June. According to Ms. Robb, “only four to five volunteers work at a time, which allows them to stay apart from each other, and still get some sunshine and exercise, while making it possible for us to include produce in our food boxes. It’s a win for everybody.”
The garden is now in its fifth year and has three planting seasons. Summer and fall crops will include peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Volunteer gardeners also plant flowers that attract bees, which is good for the plants and the environment.
The newly formed Health Ministry of the parish is ramping up to begin providing additional telephone support for parishioners experiencing spiritual, mental and physical distress, especially during this time of social isolation.
“In January, we put out a call for professionals who would be willing to consult with parishioners who felt like they needed additional support,” Robb said. “We now have an amazing group of 10 parishioners with backgrounds in health, counseling and spiritual direction who can be a listening presence for people who have questions or just need support during a difficult time. As people are feeling less connected in the days to come, this will be a reassuring service we can offer.”
Their first conference call is scheduled for Saturday, March 28.