The Charity Committee of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council has approved a $3800 grant for a new institutional cook stove to be installed at the St. George Food Pantry, Pharr, Texas.
Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo of St. George’s Orthodox Church notes, “The stove will allow quick response to natural disasters, in addition to enhancing our ability to assist our local population.” Since the town of Pharr is located in Hurricane Alley, the parish is often called upon to offer disaster relief in this Texas border region.
The St. George Food Pantry has a history of successful community ministry. In January 2002, Fr. Antonio Perdomo arrived in the Rio Grande Valley to be the Pastor of St. George’s Church. It wasn’t long before he and the parish of St. George’s realized that the community had a great need for food and other assistance. People came nearly every day, either to the Church or even to Father and Matushka’s home, hungry and in need of sustenance for themselves and their families. An informal effort to respond to these cries for help couldn’t address the magnitude of the need, since Hidalgo County, Texas has the third lowest income per household in the entire United States.
With the blessing and support of the parish, St. George’s Food Pantry opened its doors in the summer of 2004. Over time, the Pantry grew until today it serves about 125 families every two weeks. People wait in line for four to five hours to receive assistance. Over 70,000 people have been aided since the Pantry’s inaugural year, including many who are elderly or handicapped. St. George’s parishioners donate staple foods and supplies, as do those from the greater community. The innovative “Give A Can; Get A Cookie” program helps in the collection of canned food; local businesses and residential retirement communities have also volunteered to be used as collection sites.
Funding both the food and the administration costs for the ever-increasing numbers who come to the Food Bank is a continual challenge. The food bank is sustained by local contributions alone, and receives no funding from the parish’s deanery or diocese, or from the OCA’s Central Administration.
In addition to approving the Food Pantry Grant, the Metropolitan Council Charity Committee also forwarded funds earlier this year to aid Orthodox relief efforts in earthquake-stricken Japan. Other not-for-profit ministries (501-C-3) in the OCA that are interested in applying for a Grant can download an application from the OCA’s website.