By Andres Rivera
MURRIETA—Reserves at the St. Martha Food Pantry and Community Outreach Center were running low after Easter. A series of providential events, however, have revived the local refuge for families whose needs are many and resources are few.
“It is amazing and truly the work of God himself,” said Mariann Schiewe, Coordinator of Family Outreach at the St. Martha Food Pantry and Outreach Center of the Valley.
Through the combined efforts of St. Martha Parish, Macy’s Department Store, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the U.S. Postal Service, the food pantry and outreach center has restocked its shelves and coffers, and has seen its service to the greater Murrieta community continue uninterrupted.
The parish first conducted a food drive at the church in April, organized by parishioner and outreach center volunteer Gary Pinkava, and collected 5,486 pounds of food.
A local Macy’s Department Store launched a big hunger campaign in April headed up by coordinator Traci Graham. The company gave the pantry $20 for every hour an employee volunteered at the pantry or thrift store. By mid-May, the campaign had collected close to $3,000.
“It’s great,” Shiewe said. “The more we give, the more comes back to us.”
In addition to volunteering, Macy’s employees participated in silent auctions, bake sales, a flea market, a manager “slave auction,” raffles and a canned food donations contest with all proceeds going towards the pantry and outreach center.
On April 28 volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducted a local food drive to benefit St. Martha Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church of Murrieta as a part of the community’s annual service day. About 5,985 pounds of food was received by the Community Outreach Center of the Valley.
In May, the U.S. Post Office in Murrieta organized its annual food drive headed up by Gregory Trinkaus, Postmaster, and chose St. Martha’s as the recipient for all the food collected by the postal carriers. As a result, the pantry received 15,027 pounds of food.
The number of people utilizing the food pantry has increased steadily over the years. Since its founding in 1997 the program has grown from an initial 25 families to 1,000 registered/assisted families in 2011. The food pantry currently serves about 540 families a week.
The outreach center prides itself on being a total community outreach, through its food pantry, thrift store, outreach to at risk youth and veterans. Other organizations and companies have begun partnerships with the center because of its inclusive nature and ability to impact the community.
“We are a model pantry for the community,” Shiewe said. “We’ve worked with the city, county and state and have collaborated with other food pantries in the area to share our resources.”