As submitted by Nancy Monachino
On July 19, 2012 Bishop Gaydos, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City paid a surprise visit to the St. John Food Pantry in Laddonia. The Bishop visited with the volunteers and congratulated them on the job they have done. Then he made the rounds to fill up a grocery basket with items for a family of six. “That was the size of our family when I was growing up,” he said.
For 21 years the parishioners of St. John’s Catholic Church in Laddonia have fulfilled the mission the Lord gave his Apostles in John 21:15-17. In the passage, Jesus asks them several times if they love Him. They all say yes, Lord we love you and Jesus’s answer was always the same, “If you love me, Feed my sheep.” The parishioners of St. John have taken that passage from the Holy Gospel to heart as their mission. “Everyone pitches in the Bishop said. They are a shining example of the Christian vocation to serve one another and feed the world.”
In the early days, the parishioners attempted to set up a food pantry in an adjoining building. This would require the volunteers to carry the vegetables and canned goods and whatever else they could provide back and forth to the church. At that time, the clients were given the opportunity to choose what they wanted which is entirely different from how the food pantry is operated today. Then, through the generosity of Bernard Fennewald’s bequest, St. John Food Pantry received enough funds to build the present structure to house the food pantry. The only stipulation attached to accepting the inheritance was that it be used to help the poor. And that is exactly what St. John parish has done. Today the clients number 113 with 330 families benefitting from the gift of Mr. Fennewald and the volunteers who operate the food pantry. The co-chairperson’s who began the food pantry from its early infancy to what it is today is Mary Frances Hoyt and Jo Beth Schlemmer. They have continued to serve as the co-chairpersons since its inception. Since that time, many volunteers have helped fulfill the wishes of Mr. Fennewald. The direction of the food pantry including the travels to and from Mexico and Columbia, MO seems to have fallen on Mary Frances and her husband Laurance, 80 and 81 respectively. In addition, Mary Frances has some health issues but that has not kept she and her husband of 60 years from fulfilling their mission. She and Laurance with help sometimes of other family members make 2 or 3 trips a week to Mexico and Columbia or anyplace else they might get a donation of food. In addition to their mission of providing food for the food pantry, they also farm around 900 acres of land.
St. John Food Pantry, regardless of religious preference, provides groceries for families in the Laddonia, Martinsburg and the Vandalia area to supplement their families’ grocery requirements. The Food Pantry is supported by other generous benefactors including members of the St. John Catholic Church, our sister parish Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and all the protestant churches in Laddonia, some churches in Vandalia, Martinsburg, Rush Hill and Farber. In the early days of St. John Food Pantry providing food, the clients had their choice of grocery items. Today, depending on the number of people living in the household and their employment status, the volunteers fill the grocery carts with meat, canned goods, baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteers from Laddonia, Vandalia, and Martinsburg help out on a regular basis. During the school year 8th graders from St. Joseph Catholic School volunteer as well.
The Food Pantry is in partnership with The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri to provide the bulk of the food. St. John Food Pantry receives 103,596 pounds of food according to Feeding America’s report of 2011. The value of $1.66 a pound was placed by Feeding America which translates into $171,969.36 of goods received.
Every third Tuesday of the month , about 65 cars fill the St. John Catholic Church parking lot in Laddonia, MO awaiting the opening of the St. John’s Food Panty. Because the Food Pantry is operated on a first come first served basis, some arrive as early as 11:00 pm the night before and sleep in their cars.
The food pantry opens at 9:00 am and is scheduled to end at 11:00 am. Seldom do the volunteers who load the groceries in their cars leave the building before noon or after. Regardless of how early or late they arrive, no client leaves without plenty of food to supplement what they buy at the store to feed their families.
During deer season, the freezer is full of deer meat to provide protein to the clients. The food pantry also receives USDA commodities which are closely monitored. There is a monthly check and balance of commodities received and those distributed.
For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter the volunteers provide a turkey or a ham for each family. Not only does that brighten up the holidays for the clients, but the purchase of the meat is done locally so it also helps the Laddonia economy. In addition to the monthly food pantry on Tuesdays, if additional baked goods are donated from Walmart and other stores, they are picked up by the Hoyts as well. When that happens, the baked goods are distributed at 3:00 pm Wednesdays from the back of a red pickup parked under a shade tree next to the grotto of the Blessed Mother.
The gentleman who sits waiting for clients is Marty Fennewald, descendent of Bernard Fennewald. When interviewed for this article Marty said, “Oh we’re all related.” It’s nice to know that even if he is a distant cousin, he has the same generous spirit of the man who made the food pantry possible.
Marty is also a volunteer fireman in Laddonia and on occasion is called out of Mass by a loud blast calling in all the volunteer firemen. He makes a hasty retreat, and the Mass continues where it was interrupted.
Bio: Nancy B,
Married to Ono Monachino for 55 years
5 children, 4 grandchildren
76 years old, retired
On oxygen 24-7
Made a Cursillo in the early 70’s
At St. John and throughout my life as a Catholic I have served as Lector, Communion Minister, and council member
Party Line Host for KAAN Radio in Bethany MO
Public Information Officer for the Department of Public Safety in Jefferson City
One of the speech writers for then Governor John Ashcroft
Employment Tech for the Division of Employment Security in Kansas City and Hannibal
Assisted the flood victims in the 1993 devastating flood disaster in the Hannibal Quincy area