Special to the Tribune-Star
ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS —
Several years ago, David Franklin of West Terre Haute was in the local IGA. He had only $15, and he was having trouble covering the groceries he needed. He recalls a Sister of Providence, whose name he no longer remembers, was also in the store. She filled a cart full of groceries and paid for it. Then, she told him about Providence Food Pantry in West Terre Haute, where he could go once a month to get more food.
Without the groceries from the sister that day, Franklin said, his mom, his brother and sister and he would have gone hungry.
Franklin has now gone “many, many” times to the Providence Food Pantry to pick up an assortment of foods for his family once a month. He says that without it, many people in the community would go hungry.
Providence Food Pantry, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, has been serving the West Terre Haute community since 1994. It is staffed by volunteers and is supported through contributions of many, including several West Terre Haute churches, local businesses and Catholic Charities.
The Providence Pantry provides food to 275 families each month. Last fiscal year, the pantry served 3,056 families, more than 10,000 individuals.
The pantry is currently housed in the basement of the former St. Leonard’s Catholic school building. Though the church recently closed, St. Mary’s Village Church assumed ownership of the property and has promised to continue to provide a home to the pantry.
Ninety-one-year-old Annie Williams of West Terre Haute looks and works like a woman 30 years younger. She has volunteered at the pantry since it opened 18 years ago.
“I really enjoy working here and meeting the people and giving out the food and knowing we have it to give,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for this pantry, I don’t know what the people would do. We are desperately needed here. The Providence Pantry does a wonderful job,” Williams said.
“Just drive through West Terre Haute and you know there’s a great need,” said Sister of Providence Joseph Fillenwarth, who has served as director of the food pantry since 2006. She said donations are always needed to help local residents.
“Up to this point, every cent of the donated money has gone to buy food,” Fillenwarth said, thankful to the church for providing the space and utilities at no cost to the pantry.
Fillenwarth also offers special thanks to Helping Hands, the second-hand clothing store located next to the IGA in West Terre Haute. Helping Hands was founded by a group of pantry volunteers looking for new ways to support the West Terre Haute community and the Providence Food Pantry. Today, Helping Hands, run entirely by volunteers, donates the money it raises after paying its expenses to support the Providence Food Pantry and other local charities.
Fillenwarth said the pantry is special in the amount of food they offer and its quality. Those who come to the pantry, whose income must be at or below the federal government’s poverty guidelines, receive fresh produce, three kinds of meat, milk and eggs in addition to breads and canned goods. They also receive respect from the volunteers who serve them, Fillenwarth said.
As for Franklin, when asked what more he’d like to say about Providence Food Pantry, he has only two words: “Thank you.”
For more information about the Providence Food Pantry or how you can help, including food donations, call Fillenwarth at 812-535-2544. Online monetary donations, including a monthly option, may be made by designating Providence Food Pantry at www.sistersof