Ann Marie Crecco, volunteer with the Saint Ann Basilica Parish food pantry, packs food bags to be distributed to people in the community.

SCRANTON – For nearly 18 years, the food pantry at Saint Ann Basilica Parish has been meeting the needs of its community.

“It started out slow in 2004 and ever since it has been growing and growing,” co-founder Dennis Yanchik said.

The West Scranton parish recently received a Social Justice Grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to make sure all clients are able to receive assistance. Every parish in the Diocese of Scranton can apply for a Social Justice Grant to address important needs in their community like parish food pantries.

“The Diocesan Annual Appeal is a fantastic endeavor,” Yanchik added. “It’ll help us purchase items that we’re low on. We can do a lot of things with it and we do a lot of things with it to help other people.”

Saint Ann Food Pantry holds two distributions monthly – on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 2:00 until 4:00 p.m.

People who rely on the food pantry say it is an important community asset.

“It is a big helping hand,” Joseph ‘Greg’ Saylock said while selecting food to take home on a recent Wednesday. “Some weeks you have nothing and then you come here and eat for a couple days.”

The Old Forge man says he appreciates the “fabulous work” of the volunteers.

“They’ve been nothing but terrific to me,” he explained.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the food pantry say they have seen additional clients who have fallen on hard times – whether because of job losses, health problems or loss of insurance.

“We’re here for anybody, anybody and everybody,” Yanchik said. “They don’t have to be parishioners.”

Ann Marie Crecco began volunteering at the Saint Ann Food Pantry in 2006 after seeing an advertisement in the parish bulletin.

“When you reach out to people, they reach back to you,” she said.

In addition to helping on pantry distribution days, Crecco also brings food to the homebound.

“When I deliver the food, it is where it is Christmas all over again for people,” she explained. “They just can’t believe that I actually want to help them.”

Each one of the volunteers who help operate the Saint Ann Food Pantry is humble and kind. While they often downplay the importance of their work – it is truly making a difference.

“We’re not saving the world or anything but it gives us a good feeling,” Yanchik said.