Courtesy Photo On a food distribution day, cars line the road leading to Risen Lord Food Pantry in Maysel, Clay County.

By Colleen Rowan CHARLESTON—The 40 Cans for Lent Food Drive being conducted at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston will benefit the Risen Lord Food Pantry in Maysel, Clay County. Leading the effort is the Knights of Columbus St. Michael the Archangel Council #12630. A ministry of Risen Lord Mission in Maysel, the food pantry is one of the only places residents who have fallen on hard times can find food and assistance. In information provided by Father Thien Duc Nguyen, pastor of Risen Lord and of St. Thomas Parish in Gassaway, Risen Lord Food Pantry has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve those in need in Clay Country. “Since March 2020, we spent more than $50,000 to run our food pantry, backpack program and help people in emergency situations and needing assistance for utility cut off notice, medi- cal bills and gasoline,” he said. “We have a drive-thru food pantry (starts at 6 a.m.) and serves around 200 families a month (food and hygiene products) and food for many children week-ly. From March to October 2020, with the help of teachers at Clay Elementary School, Risen Lord served more than 27,000 bags of food for children in Clay Country (1,200-1,700 kids weekly). Since October 2020, the pantry has served 350 students of Clay Elementary weekly. “We are unable to do this without the help of many benefactors, such as The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, WVU, Pittsburgh Oratory and especially parishioners of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and members of the Knights of Columbus St. Michael the Archangel Council #12630 in Charleston,” Father Thien said. For Thanksgiving and Lent, basilica parishioners and Council #12630 collect food and funds for the food pantry. For Thanksgiving last year, they collected a full truck load of food and $5,570 for the food pantry, Father Thien said, “so that we were able to get food, turkey, ham…to over 287 families, and 240 families for Christmas.” A member of Risen Lord said, “It is a supplemental blessing to our food pantry. It helps us feed those extra people who come through the line that we did not expect. It helps us make sure that no one in need in Clay would go hungry.” With the only grocery store in the county closing more than a year ago, the food pantry’s presence has become vital to the community, especially to those most in need. The basilica and Council #12630’s current Lenten food drive will run through Easter Sunday, April 4. Members of Council #12630 are passing out slips of paper with donation information which may be returned to the council’s Post Office Box: P.O. Box 11578 Charleston, WV 25339-1578 or the Sunday collection basket at Masses. “If you wish to donate non-perishable food, we will collect food before and after Mass the weekends of March 13-14, 20-21, and 27-28,” council members said. “We encourage monetary donations by check. Father Thien is skillful in knowing how to purchase food in quantity and will certainly put any money donated to good use.” For those who prefer to donate food rather than money, the council offers Father Thien’s most requested items, in order: peanut butter, canned tuna fish, canned soup, any canned vegetable, and canned fruit. “We thank our parishioners for their generosity during this time of special need,” members of the council said. The pantry also helps people in emergency situations and in need of assistance for utility cut off notice, medical/pharmacy bills, and gasoline. “With their generous donation,” Father Thien said of the basilica and Council #12630, “we are able to continue our ministry to serve the poor in Clay Country. Once again, we are sincerely thankful for their support. Thank you good neighbor.”