St. Francis students donate food to House of Refuge

By Everett Brazil, III

The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Several students at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church recently made a big impact on the community when they held a food drive at the church in October, a drive which brought in more than a dozen bags of groceries, and all the items were donated to the food pantry at House of Refuge Church to help the needy within the Newkirk community.

Saint Francis Confirmation students Mariana Horinek, Carly Ballagh, Ethan Vap, Journey King and Morgan Wathor held the food drive Oct. 18 and 25 as one of several acts of mercy they are performing within the community.

Pastor Doug Gatchell at House of Refuge is grateful for the donation from St. Francis, estimating that at least 500 items were collected by the students.

“It was nice, they really blessed us,” he said. “The food that they dropped off wasn’t just food. They provided toiletries, personal hygiene items, things we could add to our homeless bags as well as hand out to people that need them.”

Vap had the inspiration for the drive from a Newkirk High School food drive about the same time, which netted about 2,000 food items the the pantry.

“Because I was involved with the high school drive, I suggested that we collect items for the House of Refuge. We do not have a food pantry at St. Francis,” he said.

The drive was held at the church, but donors came from all over Newkirk to help with the event.

“The whole community helped with the donations,” Horinek said, and Ballagh added, “There was probably 20 grocery sacks with different items.”
The House of Refuge food pantry opened in 2018, and serves two demographics within the community. One is low-income families who may have trouble paying rent or utilities, and the other is homeless people, whether that be people who live in a home without utilities, or those without shelter at all.

For low-income families, they show a utility bill to indicate they have a means to cook food, and receive a box filled with items for meals they can cook at home, such as pasta, canned meat, fruits and vegetables, hot cereal like oatmeal and dried beans and rice. Homeless individuals receive a grocery sack with items that don’t need to be cooked, like granola bars, canned foods that have pop-top style lids or food items that can easily be heated at a convenience store, such as soup and ramen noodle cups.

The fall and winter months for those individuals are very trying times, as they may have trouble heating their homes, and homeless individuals may have no place to get warm at all. This year is considered worse, however, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“2020 will go down as a tumultuous year, due to COVID-19, riots and the presidential election,” Gatchell said. “There is a lot of anxiety right now, and seeing people come out and help the community is just awesome.”
Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church is not alone in benefitting House of Refuge, as First United Methodist Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church, as well as individuals within the community also made donations to the food bank.

“The community itself is doing the same thing, and I think that is really cool,” Gatchell said. “Denomination and doctrine doesn’t mean anything, it’s just helping people that need help. When the churches reached out to the food bank and community, they weren’t just reaching out to the community, but showing that we are one body in Christ.”
As for the Confirmation students, it was a simple act of kindness, helping those who need it most.

“There are people in our community that don’t have enough to eat. It is nice that the House of Refuge has a food pantry set up for the community,” Wathor said.

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