HERMINIE — “It seems like nothing is ever too big of a task for St. Edward Parish’s food pantry,” said Jennifer Miller, director of development for the Westmoreland County Food Bank, Delmont.
For this and other reasons, St. Edward Parish food pantry was unanimously voted the outstanding agency of the year by staff of the Delmont food bank.
Miller said nominations are based on an agency’s loyalty to the food bank’s vision, adherence to its rules and regulations, leadership qualities and willingness to participate in food bank projects and activities.
Of the 71 agencies in Westmoreland County, the St. Edward Parish food pantry best fit the criteria, Miller said.
“One of St. Edward’s most outstanding qualities is their longevity,” Miller said.
The church has “stayed committed” for 29 years under some of the same leadership.
That leadership is Jim Smith, who was asked by his friend Joe Nickles to start a food pantry in the area. Later, his wife, Chris Smith, got involved and eventually became a coordinator with him. While Jim keeps the day-today of the pantry running, Chris does the paperwork to keep the pantry aligned with regulations.
“There are a lot of people who are hungry. We now get food to around 150 families,” Chris said. “But when we started, we were only doing 20 some. We are still growing.”
The St. Edward Parish food pantry serves nearly 156 families each month in addition to 30 boxes to seniors in the area.
“As my husband says, ‘If they’re hungry, they’re going to get food,” Chris said.
The pantry distributes food on the first Wednesday of every month. The Smiths said they’ve incorporated the work into their lives and are accustomed to being at the church every Wednesday.
Students from local schools, such as Yough Senior High School and NHS Human Services School, volunteer to take food boxes to cars on distribution day.
“Jim and Chris are very well organized and proud of the food pantry, knowing they are helping to combat hunger, not only in their community but throughout Westmoreland County,” said Westmoreland County Food Bank chief executive officer Kris Douglas.
“All of the volunteers at St. Edward’s are willing to go above and beyond to feed the needy in the Herminie area.”
For the Smiths, both in their 80s, it isn’t about the recognition.
“We like doing it because we are helping someone,” Chris said. “We just really enjoy doing it and keep doing it.”