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Jesus in Disguise Food Pantry Feeds Families

People in need of food in a southeastern Missouri community can now get help close to home, thanks to members of a parish who have been taking part in a faith-sharing process from RENEW International.

Members of St. Denis Catholic Church in Benton—a rural city with nearly 900 residents —were prompted by their participation in ARISE Together in Christ to organize a food pantry in cooperation with three other churches in the area.

ARISE is a faith-sharing process for small Christian communities that meet for five seasons of six sessions each.

Seasons One and Two stress God’s unconditional love for humanity, in and with Jesus Christ, and Season Three challenges participants to be that love in the lives of their neighbors.

“Through our ARISE sessions,” said Gera LeGrand, “lots of things started to bubble up. People in my particular group thought we should be doing more to help local people in need. Other groups felt there were other needs in our parish.

“Because of that, our parish held a weekend stewardship program and talked about the projects that people might want to get
involved in.


“We put that out to the parish, and we got a great response.”

For example, she said, a “Good Samaritan” program was established through which volunteers bring food to members of the parish who are either ill or recently have undergone surgery.

“The food pantry was one of the ideas that came up,” according Lisa Spalding, administrative assistant at St. Denis. “We got it implemented and up and running.’’

Lisa said that the pastor, Father Michael Casteel, had been taking a monthly collection to buy food that he could keep in the rectory to give to people who came to his door and were in need of food.

“It could have been two or three people a month,” Lisa said, “sometimes more, sometimes less. We just kind of enlarged on that.’’

The committee that was formed to explore the idea visited food pantries in Cape Girardeau, a city to the north of Benton, including a large facility operated by Catholic Charities and one run by the Salvation Army, in order to learn their procedures so as to adapt them to the local situation.

“They told us that from 17 to 25 people from the Benton area came to their food drives. Cape Girardeau is about 15 to 20 minutes from us; it’s hard for some people to make that trip. There was a need in our area.’’

And, indeed, there was. When the first food distribution was held, the Jesus in Disguise Food Pantry, as it was named, served 34 families.
Volunteers deliver food to the first car to arrive when the Jesus in Disguise food pantry held its first distribution on February 22.
These are some of the dozens of volunteers who responded to an invitation to work at the Jesus in Disguise food pantry.
Volunteer Cindy Glueck organizes food items that were donated to the Jesus in Disguise food pantry, which is housed at St. Denis Catholic Church in Benton, Mo.
These mission students from Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau helped set and stock the Jesus in Disguise food pantry.
Grocery items are arranged for distribution at the Jesus in Disguise food pantry.

The group at St. Denis invited three other churches to participate in the project—St. Lawrence Catholic Church in New Hamburg, and Unity Baptist Church and LaCroix (United Methodist) Church, both in Benton.

“We had at least 80 volunteer sign up from the churches,” Lisa said. “We organized teams, and each team takes a month.’’

Lisa said the pantry aims to serve Scott County, which includes two school districts. “It has really been a blessing,” Gera LeGrand said. “It’s almost amazing how it came together.

“There wasn’t anything here. People had to drive to Cape Girardeau or to Sikeston, which is another 15 miles away. Right here in our community, there were people in need, and we said, ‘Why not?’’’

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