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St. Francis ministry reaches out

The holiday season for most is joyous and bountiful, but forsome the holiday season is more about getting by.

Ann Case, 59, of Brookhaven, is but one of the many people whomthe St. Vincent de Paul Ministry of St. Francis of Assisi CatholicChurch has helped this year.

The 2-year-old ministry under the leadership of Mark Nettles,provides assistance to needy families of any denomination.

“Food, some utility assistance and medicines are provided tothose in need,” Nettles said.

The ministry actually began in 1833 as a nonprofit, charitableorganization of the Catholic church. Its membership currently has900,000 lay men and women worldwide.

Words attributed to St. Vincent de Paul guide the oganization’sministry: “It is an obligation for us to inconvenience ourselvesfor the service of the poor.”

Although funds are limited from time to time, “250 to 300families have benefited from the ministry this past year,” Nettlessaid. The local ministry is run by eight active members.

“We don’t get any government funding,” Nettles said. Fiftypercent of the funds for the food pantry come from donations fromthe approximately 225 families at the church. The other 50 percentcomes from other donations and fund-raisers, such as the ongonigHoliday Food Pantry drive conducted by The DAILY LEADER and theBank of Brookhaven.

Case, a housekeeper at Super 8 Motel, lost her husband, J.H., inJanuary 2001.

“I’ve used the pantry about three times,” Case said. “They’vebeen real good to me.”.

Case’s only vehicle is in an auto repair shop, and she wasunable to pay for the needed repairs. “This is the reason why I’musing the food pantry,” she said.

“I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t know of any otherchurch that helps folks like they do,” Case said of the St. Francisministry.

Case and her daughter picked up several food items, as well as afew items of clothing at the ministry.

“We don’t normally handle clothing,” Nettles said, as Casethanked him and the ministry several times for the items she pickedup. Nettles told Case to not thank him, but to “thank God.”

The church provides a building that houses the food pantry andan area to store other items that have been donated. The foodpantry side of the building is set up much like a grocery store,with like items grouped together on shelves.

Needy families are able to choose from a variety of groceryitems, such as canned vegetables, canned meats, boxed food items,paper towels and toilet paper.

Nettles voiced his appreciation for the donations to the foodpantry, saying approximately 16 families benefited last Christmasseason. “The rest of the money goes to help throughout the year toprovide food for people,” he said.

Those in need of assistance may contact the church, which will,in turn, contact a member of the ministry.

A fund has been set up at Bank of Brookhaven to accept donationsto aid food pantries in the Lincoln County area.

John Lowman, The DAILY LEADER’s general manager, said theaccount will remain open until Dec. 17, and checks will be issuedto food pantries the week before Christmas.

Last year’s contributions of $7,800 were divided betweenBrookhaven Outreach Ministries, St. Vincent de Paul Ministries ofSt. Francis Church and Union Hall Baptist Church.

The fund this year currently stands at $1,165.

Donations, which are recognized daily on the front page of thepaper, may be dropped off at the newspaper office, 128 N. RailroadAve., or at the Bank of Brookhaven, 411 Brookway Blvd. Checksshould be made payable to Holiday Food Pantry. Donations may madein honor of a friend or loved one and also may be madeanonymously.