Teresa Bolte has been running the St. Susanna food pantry ministry for 30 years. The pantry has been located at the Schuh Center for Peace and Justice, on the St. Susanna campus in Mason since 2009. Teresa’s role is the Food Pantry Volunteer Coordinator, but it encompasses so much more and comes straight from her heart.
“I saw a need in the community and addressed it,” Teresa says. “The hardest thing was convincing everyone that there were people in need in the area, because it appears to be so new and affluent. It came from inside of me to make it happen.”
Teresa and her team of volunteers serve about 20 families every week. Some are referred by word-of-mouth, but most come from the Society of St. Vincent De Paul-St. Susanna Conference, which is led by parishioners. The society supports people who contact the parish in need of assistance with food, rent and utilities.
The food pantry’s mission is to help those suffering from food insecurity, but other needs are also met. Teresa notes, “There just isn’t any extra money. If you can’t afford food, you can’t afford clothing, school supplies, Christmas presents and Thanksgiving dinner.”
They change out clothing seasonally, and also provide school supplies which families can come in and shop for. They offer used children’s books and toys, as well as bedding and kitchen supplies like pots and pans. Thanksgiving and Christmas are their big upcoming projects.
One offering that Teresa is especially passionate about is providing a “laundry bag” to families each month which includes toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Many people may be unaware that food stamps do not include these types of items or toiletries. Teresa makes sure the bags, as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant are available in the pantry.
“I always tell the families that I get it,” shares Teresa. “I’m one of ten kids and I have five kids myself, it’s hard.”
The food pantry includes items such as dairy products and eggs donated by Gordon Food Service, bakery items and breads donated by Kroger, lunches, breakfast sandwiches and salads donated by Starbucks, and chicken and biscuits donated by Chick-fil-A. Protein, canned goods, other non-perishables and all other items not provided by businesses are donated by parishioners.
“It’s a very giving parish,” Teresa explains. “We are very blessed.”
The food pantry also gets fresh produce in the summer from the parish garden. Volunteer parishioners plant and harvest from the garden throughout the summer until the St. Susanna festival in the fall.
Two popular options available to families at the pantry are the chili bag which contains everything needed for a chili dinner and the colorful birthday bags which include cake, frosting and candles.
“I started the birthday bags after someone told me that she didn’t have anything to give her child, not even a birthday cake,” relates Teresa. “It broke my heart.”
Anyone interested in making donations can drop off items at the Schuh Center during food pantry hours from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
“I’d just like people to know that the food pantry is here and just how grateful and gracious people are that we are here for them,” Teresa says. “You can see it in their eyes, how appreciative they are.”
Schuh Center Food Pantry-St. Susanna Catholic Church
616 Reading Rd., Mason