Mahatma Gandhi once pointed out that "there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world," he urged.
And so it was that when Dolores Clark moved here in 1999 and recognized hunger in this community, she wanted to be that change she saw in her world. Largely through her passion and energy — and the Knights of Columbus and their wives — Our Lady’s Pantry was born.
In the beginning, monthly Project Hunger collections at Prince of Peace and Our Lady of Guadalupe made it possible to provide big bags of food for about 25-30 families a week. Today — 20 years later — more than 1,800 clients are registered at Our Lady’s Pantry, many of whom come regularly for food.
The first weekend of every month continues to be a busy one for The Knights in both Churches. It’s especially busy for Leo Pelzel, who has served as Coordinator for Project Hunger for most of the past two decades.
Pelzel typically works at Prince of Peace, where he and other Knights put out their Project Hunger barrels about 45 minutes before each of the Masses. Ideally, there is one Knight at every door before parishioners go into Church, to thank those making a donation.
After parishioners donate bags of food, Pelzel transfers the food to the storeroom on the side of the Church. He fills a dozen big containers stored there. Each container holds about 40 pounds of non-perishable food, he says.
“We usually fill about 20 containers after all the weekend Masses at Prince of Peace, so that’s about 800 pounds of food,” he says. “We sometimes have more donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once we had 25 containers!
“Jack Dudzik, or one of our other Knights, will be here tomorrow morning with the Pantry truck,” Pelzel added. “He and I will load the containers into the truck. He will then deliver them to the Pantry, where volunteers will sort and then store the food until Saturday, when it is shared with our families. Jack will then return the empty boxes to the storeroom, so we’ll have them next month.”
Pelzel said that Project Hunger at Prince of Peace yielded a stunning 840 pounds of food and $2,074.24 in cash this weekend. Added to the Project Hunger collection at Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Pantry had the monies needed to purchase lots of nutritious food for our neighbors in need.
“Project Hunger is the Pantry’s lifeline,” Pelzel added. “We thank every person, who has donated to Project Hunger. You can be sure that every dollar donated for food is used for that purpose.
“We especially want to thank Father Kovanis and Father Quintero for the opportunity to take up these collections each month. It has made all the difference in allowing us to serve the poor for all these many years.”
Two other Knights working at Prince of Peace for the 8 a.m. Mass on this particular weekend were Enrique Gallegos and Steve Lucas. Lucas pointed out how generous parishioners were with both food and cash for Project Hunger.
“Much of what happens here, however, depends on what Leo does,” Lucas says. “He is remarkable!”
“I thank the Lord we are so blessed by people’s generosity,” says Pelzel.