Food pantry provides hope during the holidays
On the second Saturday of every month, 74-year-old Marie rises before the sun and makes her way to St. Joseph’s food pantry in Billings. Distribution days are her favorite—but not because she knows she’ll receive a box of food at the end of the morning.
Marie spends these mornings distributing food to hungry families. She helps serve about 85 families each month, and that number increases drastically during the holidays.
Preparation for Saturday distributions starts on Friday afternoons. Some clients arrive at the pantry to get on the list early, so Marie takes down their information and gives them each a number, which saves their spot in line for Saturday morning. She’s an essential part of the team at St. Joseph’s.
On distribution days, Marie makes sure that every person who needs food receives a number, and she always puts her name last on the list. She also regularly delivers food to individuals who lack transportation or suffer from health issues in nearby towns.
“She is such a selfless lady,” said Pat Hutton, president and treasurer of St. Joseph’s. “She always puts others before herself.”
Marie began receiving food at the pantry six years ago when she couldn’t keep up with her bills.
“My house payment takes up half of my social security,” she shared. “And the rest of the money is spent on other basic bills like
utilities and my car. If it was not for the pantry, I wouldn’t have food on my table.”
She began volunteering at the pantry about four years ago. In her early days, Marie helped simplify the distribution system to make Saturday morning distributions run more efficiently.
“It’s important to me to help others who are in similar situations,” she expressed.
Distributions in November and December are particularly special at the pantry. Each family receives a turkey, green beans, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a pie and other foods to create a special holiday meal. And thanks to grants from the Musgrave Foundation, these holiday boxes often include hygiene and household products like toothbrushes, shampoo, toilet paper and paper towels.
“Multiple people have told me, ‘We wouldn’t have had Christmas without you.’ The elderly are particularly thankful for what they receive,” said Pat.
Around the holidays, Marie is always thankful for the household supplies. Her 13-year-old granddaughter often visits her, and she once asked Marie why she didn’t have any toilet paper.
“I told her that after all my bills, I didn’t have enough money left to afford toilet paper. I’m so thankful I can get things like that here,” said Marie.
St. Joseph’s food pantry has graciously served families in Christian County since 1986. They pick up food from Ozarks Food Harvest once a month.
“Ozarks Food Harvest is important to us because we are able to receive a great amount of nutritious food,” said Pat. “Our clients often comment on the variety of foods we offer them on distribution day.”
Pat has seen how small acts of kindness can impact the lives of clients in big ways. “People often cry when they receive their
food, especially the first time they visit the pantry,” shared Pat.
To many people, St. Joseph’s is more than just a place to get food—it’s a family.
“It’s a good place for people,” said Marie. “Everyone takes care of each other. There’s so much community and relationship.”
Thanks to you, a family will be able to put a special meal on the table this Christmas. Together, we are bringing meals, joy and hope to people struggling with hunger in southwest Missouri.