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Tree of Life Little Food Pantry opens in Niagara Falls

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The Faith Formation class of St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Niagara Falls gathers around their new project, a Tree of Life Little Food Pantry. The small box in front of the Prince of Peace Worship site allows people to help themselves to small grab-and-go meals. Father Bob Hughson, pastor of St. Vincent’s, and Father Mario Racho, parochial vicar, were proud of the work done by the class. Photo courtesy of St. Vincent De Paul Parish

In this year like none other where need is greater than ever, especially among the poorest of the poor, ninth-grade Faith Formation teachers Brian and Jennifer Cramer along with their son Joshua and groundskeeper, Mark Chudy, embarked upon a project with their students to build and stock a little free food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls. This project was the fruit of brainstorming ways to engage youth in their faith through service.

Building of the pantry began in October 2020 and continued until the middle of November. Due to the need for entirely remote learning for all students during a spike in the Covid-19 pandemic, the rest of the work, including painting resumed during February and March 2021. As the pantry neared completion, it was necessary to secure a good location for its placement.

Since there are two campuses at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, the St. Leo site and the Prince of Peace site, there was much discussion about where to place the pantry.  After considerable thought, discussion and investigation, and with the blessing of the very active and dedicated St. Vincent de Paul Society at the parish, Sister Joanne Suranni, CSSF, and the group discovered a spot under a large birch tree at the Prince of Peace Worship Site. This location is ideal as it is near the crossroads of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Military Road, two busy thoroughfares where many homeless persons are often seen. After speaking with Father Bob Hughson, pastor, the group decided to name this new little free food pantry the “Tree of Life Little Free Food Pantry.” 

The Tree of Life Little Food Pantry stands outside Prince of Peace Worship Site in Niagara Falls. The wooden case, built by the parishes Faith Formation class, offers food for the hungry.

To the wonder of Sister Joanne and the teachers, the blessing and opening of the pantry occurred on Sunday, April 11, Divine Mercy Sunday. Following Mass, the young people and their parents gathered around the pantry where Father Hughson blessed and officially opened it with words of affirmation for the students and catechists. In blessing the pantry, Father Hughson said that through this ministry, God’s love will flow out to the community and people will know that we are here for them. As Father Hughson spoke, the sun began to peek through the clouds, and it seemed as if God was smiling about this labor of love. 

After the pantry was blessed, the students stocked the pantry with a variety of easy to open and consume, “grab and go” types of foods. The students and teachers then invoked the help of Venerable Nelson Baker, known as a great servant of those in need in Western New York. In years to come, the Tree of Life Little Free Food Pantry will continue to be a service project for the confirmation candidates at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. 

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