BLOOMING GROVE TOWNSHIP – During the COVID-19 pandemic, food pantries operated by parishes across the Diocese of Scranton have continued to respond to an increasing need.
The Blooming Grove Food Pantry in Pike County, operated by Saint John Neumann Parish, is one of the many facilities meeting the needs of its community.
“This is one of the few places that will make sure that you have toilet paper and paper towels and things that are really necessary,” recipient Adista Wightman said.
Wightman, who lives near the parish in the Hemlock Farms development, says the food she receives has helped immensely during the coronavirus.
“The one gentleman that volunteers here also makes sure I get a packet of kitty food so it means the world to me,” Wightman added.
Peggy Shekailo, Blooming Grove Food Pantry Director, says the parish has helped an average of 60-70 families each month during the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the number was roughly 48 families.
In order to keep volunteers and recipients safe, the food pantry transitioned to a drive-thru operation for several months.
“My biggest concern is children and seniors. I try to make sure I have food for them,” Shekailo said.
A social justice grant provided by the Diocesan Annual Appeal helps the parish purchase meat to distribute to recipients. Reverend Ed Casey, pastor of Saint John Neumann Parish, is very thankful that the Annual Appeal helps recipients get a good protein along with canned goods and non-perishable items.
“The Annual Appeal has helped us greatly with keeping the food pantry open,” he explained.
The Blooming Grove Food Pantry has been at Saint John Neumann Parish since the early 2000s. Shekailo has spent the last decade personally making sure its operation has been successful.
“I was there when I was a kid, there was no food on the table at my house. My family was one of those that was extremely poor and I ate at different people’s houses or the diner would fix something and give it to my dad. That is how I ate so to do this for me makes me feel unbelievably good. I enjoy it,” she explained.
The Blooming Grove Food Pantry is open to anyone in the community. Recipients do not need to belong to the parish to receive assistance.
“There aren’t that many services in Pike County. I know that from my days as a social worker with Catholic Social Services and this really fills a need,” Father Casey said.
Donations to the 2020 Diocesan Annual Appeal are currently being accepted. To make a gift, visit AnnualAppeal.org.