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Center Grove area church expanding food pantry to new building

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A Center Grove area church is building a new, larger food pantry with plans to expand the number of days it helps residents in need.

SS. Francis and Clare Catholic Church opened a food pantry about two years ago, and the number of people the pantry has helped each month has more than tripled during that time. Some people visit to get help feeding their families after losing a job, while others may have a job but struggle to pay all of their bills on their income, outreach coordinator Dan Sall said.

When the church started the food pantry in 2012, they were helping about 28 families per month. Now, the pantry helps more than 100 families a month.

But the church has not been able to open the pantry on additional days because it uses space that is not available during the week, Sall said. The facility currently is open only on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

Currently, food is stored on carts in school closets. Volunteers have to wheel the carts out when the pantry is open and wheel them back once the pantry closes. That setup does not allow the food pantry to be open on weekdays because the school is being used, Sall said.

A new stand-alone food pantry should solve those problems. Construction on the new pantry, which will be about 1,900 square feet, will begin in June and should be completed by Sept. 1. Food will be able to be stored in the pantry, and that could allow the food pantry to open some weekdays, Sall said.

The new food pantry will be built on the northeast portion of the church’s property and will be located next to a concession stand and football field. A playground that is on the site will be moved to another location on the church property, marketing director Angie Gilliland said.

The idea to build a stand-alone building for the food pantry came from a recent message by Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis called to the church to remember its primary focus is to reach out to the poor or needy,” Father Vince Lampert said. “It’s so easy to get turned into ourselves, but you have to realize it’s really about helping others as well.”

“How can we be present to people, and there’s more to the story than needing food. Somebody may have lost a job, and people just need to have their stories heard.”

The food pantry is nondenominational and open to anyone. About 15 volunteers will sort and stock food items for one to two hours a day. And about 18 volunteers will help with shifts from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Saturdays the food pantry is open.

The church has 1,600 member families, and they make up the biggest donors to the food pantry. Items also come from school food drives and Gleaners Food Bank. The Knights of Columbus also has a quarterly pancake breakfast with proceeds benefiting the food pantry, Sall said.

The new food pantry will be paid for by parishioner donations, but Sall declined to give a cost for the building until the price was finalized.

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