St. Alphonsus Community Services

In 1986, six ladies, led by the indomitable Laura Brenn and Jane Aitken, started a food pantry for the local hungry in the basement of the old St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.  Since then, we have widened our community to all residents of Cumberland County, helping thousands of needy people.

Our Community Services beginnings were small, and we soon found our facilities were inadequate and needed more space.

In the mid nineties, St. Alphonsus began a fund-raising campaign to build a new church.  Already, 37 acres had been purchased, which included the original farm house referred to as the "Red House".  Though over a hundred years old, we decided that this building would better serve our requirements, enabling us to help even more of the people of our community. 

The Red House need much renovation, and our parishioners painted ceilings, wallpapered walls and collected donations of desks, tables, and filing cabinets.  At last, in November of 1991, our food pantry moved into a biiger space, and under the dedicated guidance of Bea Bartoszek and Mary Mitter, our new directors, S.A.C.S. continued to expand, helping many more people.

However, twelve years later, we had to move again.  In 2000, construction of our new church was begun.  It was completed in May, 2003.  Our old church was vacated and the Red House demolished, giving us not choice by tot move back into the old church school rooms.  But this, again, could be only be temporary as that building was now up for sale.

Finally, the following year in 2004, just over a year after our present church was completed, we built our new S.A.C.S. building.  It was blessed and opened by Bishop Kurtz.  Since then, first under the dynamic leadership of Pat Cebe, and then the equally dedicated Carol Rosales, is now under the direction of the talented Jerry Lorenc,  we have been able to increase and better aid the poor of Cumberland County.

Over the years, many have helped, enabling us to increase our services.  In 1996, a deceased parishioner bequeathed $11,375; in 1997, Father Humbrecht, on behalf of the parishioners of Sacred Heart Cathedral, gave us a check for $2,226.66.  Recently, a gentleman in the hospital gave us $500 and his company, from whom he retired, trebled his generosity with a further $1,500 gift.  We recieve electronic transfers from people who quietly support our efforts; indeed, when we need extra finance, it's amazing how the good Lord provides.

Twelve years ago, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Fairfield Glade joined with us, and their parishioners continually support this program with with both money and physical assistance.  Now, our dedicated board of directors and volunteers, made up of members from both parishes, contribute more than their time and labor; they contribute their own money, will buy extra food when we run short and purchased much-needed shelving. 

We now have thirsy unpaid volunteers, men and women, who dispense food and the generous monetary donations received in th monthly envelopes from parishioners of both churches.  We use our own computerized data base, set up Jim Heath, to maintain accurate files on clients.  Most of our operating expenses are shared by both parishes, so more money can go directly to the needs of our clients.

Any resident of Cumberland County who is in need and has a picture ID or driver's license, and a social security card, may apply for help.  After verification, gas, electric, water and rent bills are paid directly to the utility companies or landlords.  We now are networking between all local agencies, and careful rules are followed to see no duplication of assistance is made.  All volunteers have at least a month's training.  Also, interviewers are trained in V.I.R.T.U.S.

We have many inspirational stories.  One of our clients broke down and cried when a S.A.C.S. volunteer spent over four hours with a mortgage company helping that person avoid foreclosure.  We paid his mortgage.  Similarly, we have enabled other families to remain in their homes through of payment of their rents and utilities.  Our ministry could not survive without the generosity of the parishes of St. Francis and St. Alphonsus.  For many of our clients, it is their first interaction with the Catholic Church and it is a positive one!

So many people are desperately in need of financial help, particularly over the last forur years.  Many have lost jobs.  Food stamps have been cut and food prices have gone up.  But we haven't failed yet; both parishes have nobly increased increased their donations.  We have applied for monetary grants from organizations such as FEMA, Volunteer Electric Company and Mid Tennessee Gas Company, and many have responded.

No one is turned away without at least a few days supply of food, though sometimes it has been hard to respond to the needs of all those who come to us for assistance.  But our requests for help from our two churches are always answered.  Food collection barrels at both churches provide canned food on a regular basis.  Our boy scouts conduct canned supplies drives.  Our parishioners hold annual fund raisers to supplement our monthly envelopes - our major source of funds.  We have an annual postal food drive where parishioners follow the mail carriers on assigned routes to puck up non-perishables donated by the local community; this year, we received over 4,000 pounds of food.  Local grocery stores provide us with deliveries of meat, bread, fruit, and vegetables twice a week.  Nothing is wasted, for even the local pigs benefit as any spoiled food is donated to them.

Since our inception, we have been able to give our of $1,000,000 in payments, and many hundreds of thousand meals.  In 1991, our first year in the Red House, we helped 68 households.  Either years later, we served 801 families and gave food to 1,521.  One of the recent fiscal year alone, assistance was given to 2,733 households, and 27, 388 meals were provided; $66,838.53 was given for rent and utilities.  Next year, through the open-hearted, loving generosity of our people, we hop to give even more.

S.A.C.S. is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and can be reached by calling (931) 484-8074