St. John Vianney feeds 230 families at event

It really does solidify faith in action
– Jan Pedone, camp coordinator, St. John Vianney’s Catholic Heart Workcamp

St. John Vianney Catholic Church’s Interfaith Food Pantry handed out 6,600 pounds of fresh produce to all county residents in need of food assistance July 26 on the church’s campus.
Larry Donnelly, the food pantry’s chairman, said that with the help of 250 teen volunteers from the church’s Catholic Heart Workcamp and his team of eight volunteers, about 230 families were able to be served.
“It’s a good thing we were able to do, but it’s sad that we have to do that,” he said.
The fresh produce included sweet potatoes, white potatoes, squash, melon and green beans from the Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore, and ears of corn from Bernie Fowler Jr.’s farm through the county’s End Hunger program, Donnelly said.
“Everything was gone” when the event ended at 1 p.m., he said, adding that there were no restrictions on the limit of items a family could take.
“It was very successful,” Donnelly said. “I was very happy with it.”
Donnelly explained that he scheduled this free food event for the same week 250 teens and chaperones would be on the church campus for Catholic Heart Workcamp so they could help with the event.
The weeklong camp hosted 248 teens, ages 14 to 20, and their chaperones this year, camp coordinator Jan Pedone said.
This year was the fifth year campers have come to St. John Vianney, and the 16th year parish members have gone elsewhere. The teens were at 55 different sites throughout the week, Pedone said.
Most of the work the campers did was unskilled labor, Pedone explained, such as yard work, painting, cleaning and helping to maintain the homes of residents who are unable to do so.
In addition, the campers went to the Project ECHO homeless shelter in Prince Frederick, Spring Dell Center in La Plata, which assists individuals with disabilities, the Adult Day Care in Prince Frederick and Tri-County Health Services in Charles County, along with many other sites in Southern Maryland.
Pedone explained that every day the campers attended mass and worship, and at night there were concerts and prayer services, and campers were allowed to play outside on the church fields.
“This is a life-changing event for most of the kids. It really does solidify faith in action for them,” Pedone said. “They want to come back year after year after year. They love it.”
She added that “if there’s anybody that could use our help, the kids will be back next year.”