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New facility opens for Harvest on Vine!

Harvest on Vine Emergency Food Pantry is one of Charlestown’s best resources for those in need. Every month, the facility supplies food to hundreds of client families in the community. Recently, the pantry relocated from the former St. Catherine of Siena school hall to the adjacent Annex as the new property owners commenced renovation.

Suffolk Company has modified the Annex for food pantry operation with a new handicap ramp, and eventually double doors, at the entrance. The vacant Annex was last occupied by the MissionSAFE youth program. The Annex was also used by the parish Social Ministry before Tom MacDonald and staff moved to office space at the Rectory.

The Annex will be up and running for its regular distribution to clients this Saturday.


The basics for those in need
In April 2012, Harvest on Vine emergency food pantry distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food to the needy of Charlestown. (We give each family roughly a week’s worth of groceries.) At our more recent distribution, a volunteer noticed a client taking toilet paper from the pantry bathroom. The client, a single mother of three, told me she couldn’t afford toilet paper. Her EBT card bought only food. It was a stark example of the plight of the poor and the choices they are forced to make.

At one time, Harvest on Vine offered items like soap, toilet paper, shaving cream, and razor blades, but recent cuts to both state and federal programs have limited the supply. Despite the government cuts, Harvest on Vine will begin to purchase and distribute toilet paper to the extent our budget allows. We welcome your support in this effort.

The most inspiring aspect of Harvest on Vine is this:  the Parish never suffers from “compassion fatigue.” Our parishioners always answer the call for help, and we have faith the call will be answered again. For this, Harvest on Vine is most grateful.

God bless you all.

– Tom MacDonald

Overview of Harvest on Vine

Harvest on Vine had seven clients when it first opened its doors in 2003. Today, the emergency food pantry assists more than 600 people. Thanks to donations and community support, the facility is now one of strongest resources for those in need.

Pantry volunteers, about thirty per distribution, are a driving force behind monthly activities. “They treat the least of our sisters and brothers with dignity and respect,” notes Social Ministry director Tom MacDonald.

Clients can visit Harvest on Vine twice a month and select items from 25 food stations. Donations are collected from local residents and drives, with other stock purchased and provided by the Greater Boston Food Bank, Rosev Dairy, Costa, and Johnnie’s Foodmaster.

Harvest on Vine also provides Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners during the holidays with the help of generous benefactors. In 2011, some 490 turkey baskets and 450 spiral hams were distributed to families.

The value of Harvest on Vine has never been more clear. In 2010, Project Bread  discovered that 10.8% of Massachusetts households were food insecure:  people who limit the quality and quantity of food in their diet because of financial problems. This is the highest rate since state data was first taken in 1995. (projectbread.org.)

If you wish to volunteer at Harvest on Vine or make a donation, please contact Tom MacDonald at tmacdonald@stmaryscatherine.org or (617) 337-3545.

Year-in-Review from Director of Social Ministry

Because of your contributions, Harvest on Vine food panty has concluded its most successful year.  Sadly, the city has seen a rise in people searching for food assistance, but thanks to you, the pantry has been able to  respond in terms of number of families served, tonnage of food distributed, variety of healthy choices offered, and financial support received.

As usual the volunteers played a huge role in the pantry’s success. They treated the least of our sisters and brothers with dignity and respect, and their Christian love poured through at each distribution.

Harvest on Vine distributed 490 turkey baskets at Thanksgiving and 450 spiral hams at Christmas. The Parish’s St. Vincent De Paul Society was exceedingly generous to both events and throughout the year. The clients that waited in line, a line that reached Hayes Square, were patient and orderly. The presence of Boston Police ensured there would be no problems. They erected barriers and worked the crowd; they were the ideal welcoming committee. Everything went perfectly.

For the first time in 2011, Harvest on Vine distributed fresh fruit and vegetables to our clients, and the clients were thrilled by it. Fresh produce is a healthy addition to our offerings. It was available last year and again this year because of generous benefactors.

We also give fresh milk, frozen meats, and eggs when they are available. Rice, pasta, tomato sauce, soup, tuna, and cereal are also available. Our clients are fed well.

Saint Mary–Saint Catherine of Siena Parish makes this mission happen. The vision of the Pastor, the commitment of the staff, and the enthusiasm of the parishioners has resulted in a first-class food pantry operation, a mission the parish should take pride in, and a mission we should continue to improve. Happy New Year! You deserve it.

If you are interested in volunteering your time at the Harvest on Vine emergency food pantry, or would like to make a donation, please email tmacdonald@stmarystcatherine.org.

– Tom MacDonald, Director of Social Ministry