Social Service Ministry

THE FOOD/PAPER BANK AT ST. JAMES began in October of 1985 with the establishment of the Paper Bank by the Ladies of Charity, an international association whose mission is service to the poor, and the Social Service Ministry at St. James. The Paper Bank began as a service to those parishioners who were unemployed, underemployed, working poor and senior citizens on a fixed income. The Paper Bank was started to distribute household cleaning items, paper products, and health and personal care products not covered by Food Stamps. During the first year the program was servicing 25 households and three years later over one hundred families from the Wilkinsburg Area were being assisted.

JOSIE BRYANT joined the staff at St. James as Social Service Minister in August, 1999 and shortly after expanded the Paper Bank to include the distribution of food. For many years the parish was distributing emergency food almost on a daily basis. It was noted that the same families were returning monthly and that emergency food bags were not meeting the needs of the community. A monthly distribution of food was started to help meet those needs. By offering these services, the parishioners of St. James were responding to the Gospel message of Jesus and Catholic Social Teaching.

The FOOD/PAPER BANK MINISTRY is supported by donations and Church offerings in the Poor of the Parish envelopes.

The FOOD/PAPER BANK MINISTRY is also supported by 25 to 35 volunteers from the parish and from the community who give generously of their time.

Every Wednesday, Evelyn Christie and other volunteers travel to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank’s warehouse in Duquesne to purchase, or receive with grants, food and household necessities for distribution on the third Saturday of the month.

Volunteers also come in on the Thursday prior to distribution to bag food and paper items.

On the third Saturday of the month more volunteers come for distribution and to assist our clients.

And on the last Friday of the month, boxes of food and paper products are distributed to Seniors.

Currently, the FOOD/PAPER BANK has 150 registered families. Families are referred by governmental agencies, community organizations and word of mouth. Clients are evaluated according to federal guidelines regarding poverty. There is also a consideration of extenuating circumstances such as bankruptcy or enrollment in a debt program which can leave an individual or family with less money for food. Josie says she often hears people who are struggling to make ends meet say “I just don’t have it”.

Some of the items are the same from week to week such as bread, cereal, peanut butter, soup, crackers and canned fruit or juice. There is a cold bag that contains frozen meat products. When available there are fresh fruits and vegetables. We also distribute items that can make a whole meal such as pasta and sauce. During the holiday seasons there are vouchers from Giant Eagle for ham or turkey while we contribute the trimmings such as gravy and cranberry sauce. There are also snacks which are appreciated by everyone and especially the children.

The FOOD/PAPER BANK MINISTRY at St. James happens because of the support of parishioners who give of their time and their treasure to support this ministry.

In the Fall of 2000, MARY’S CHILD, a ministry to assist parents, grandparents and caregivers of children from infancy to 5 years old was started. It is to let them know they are not alone… truly, it takes a village to nurture a child. MARY’S CHILD provides advice and immunization review as well as distributing diapers and other necessities. The families come on the third Saturday of the month and they also receive support throughout the month. This ministry provides direct service to St. James parishioners and the Wilkinsburg community. MARY’S CHILD is about the celebration of life with families and the NEW HOPE that Mary’s Child gave to the world.

In 2001, the ST. JAMES HEALTH MINISTRY started to contribute their services at the Food/Paper Bank. There are volunteer nurses who provide blood pressure checks and health counseling. Eastern Area EMS also has a presence giving help and support where needed.

Also, for Sr. Thea Bowman Catholic Academy’s  “AFTER -SCHOOL” PROGRAM we provide nutritious snacks every school day for as many as forty students.