North Central News

Food pantry serves local community

By Teri Carnicelli
When St. Francis Xavier church completed its new Parish Center in late December 2015, one of the first ministries to move into the new 34,000-square-foot building was the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry.

Mark McConnell, right, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Francis Xavier Parish, assists volunteer John Chilcott in unloading donations to the parish’s food pantry from a nearby grocery store (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

Mark McConnell, right, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Francis Xavier Parish, assists volunteer John Chilcott in unloading donations to the parish’s food pantry from a nearby grocery store (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

The pantry is operated by one of the 88 St. Vincent de Paul “conferences” in the city of Phoenix. It has been in operation since before the current St. Francis church opened in 1959; the conference was chartered as part of the former church at that site, in 1949.

The move into the new Parish Center allowed the pantry to nearly double in size—at least, in terms of space. There are more shelves to fill, and always needed are canned meats like tuna, as well as canned fruit, says Mark McConnell, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Francis Xavier.

McConnell oversees the volunteers at the pantry, which include students from nearby St. Francis Xavier School, Brophy College Prep and Xavier College Prep. He also has a regular crew of volunteer retirees, many of whom are members of the church.

But McConnell emphasizes that you don’t have to be a member of the church to volunteer—or to receive help from the pantry.

The pantry provides food boxes, as well as limited financial help with rent and utilities, for struggling working families in the area of Maryland Avenue south to Thomas Road, and from 7th Avenue to 16th Street. “The idea is to help as needed, rather than on a regular schedule,” McConnell explains. “We’re just here to help you over a temporary financial hurdle.”

Those who need assistance call 602-212-4508 and leave a message about what it is they need assistance with, and if the pantry can help a volunteer team will deliver the food at the caller’s convenience. The pantry also can provide limited financial help with household goods via a gift card to one of the nearby St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores.

McConnell says he has seen a drop in calls since nearby luxury condos and apartments have opened up. “There has been an exodus from this area of lower-income families, who have most likely seen their own rents go up as the new, high-end condos have moved in,” adding to the increase in housing costs for the area, he explains.

Still, the calls do come in, and there is still need in the community. And the pantry needs some help as well—not only food donations, which can be dropped off inside the church (4715 N. Central Ave.) in one of the food collection boxes, but also a need for more volunteers.

Student volunteers are welcome, but must be accompanied by a parent when making a food delivery. All volunteers must first undergo a brief orientation. For more information, call 602-212-4541 and leave a message expressing your interest in volunteering at the pantry.

The new St. Francis Xavier Parish Center was officially opened in January as part of the final phase in a 10-year campaign effort, with the adjacent St. Francis Xavier School additions being completed first. The new Parish Center features a 600-seat Parish Hall, 50-seat chapel, prayer garden, conference rooms, administrative offices and Education Outreach Center, as well as the expanded food pantry. For more information, visit www.sfxphx.org.

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