Blessed Sacrament Parish’s Outreach in Coalburg Surpasses 25 Years

By Colleen Rowan The people of Blessed Sacrament Parish in South Charleston have a long-time commitment of outreach to those in need in the rural Kanawha County community of Coalburg. For 25 years, the parish has helped stock the food pantry at Good Shepherd Chapel in the small town. This year, the effort included roughly 100 parish households contributing food items which filled a 6′ x 6′ x 12′ trailer. “About 12 of our youth group received the food and packed the trailer under the guidance of their parents and Mary Odin, our youth minister,” said Father John Finnell, pastor of the parish. A great help in the project, Father Finnell said, was Tommy Ross, a parishioner who loaned the trailer, and his wife, Kathy, who drove it to Coalburg. Tommy is also a candidate for the diaconate for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “I feel immense gratitude, pride and awe at the enthusiastic response from our parishioners for this and other charitable projects,” Father Finnell said. The parish norm- ally has one of these food drives each spring and each fall, he said. Youth from Blessed Sacrament help winterize homes in the Good Shepherd area as well. “We also provide about $15,000 to purchase food for their Christmas food baskets,” Father Finnell said. “We also send additional food or funds when their food pantry runs out of items. This has been going on for at least 25 years.” The support for the food pantry is just one of the many ways Blessed Sacrament Parish reaches out to help others, Father Finnell said. “It’s part of our phil- osophy of stewardship,” he said. “We believe that God always gives us what God knows we need in order to carry out whatever is our part of God’s great plan of salvation.” Deacon John Hanna, long-time permanent deacon at Blessed Sacrament, said the food collection the parish conducts began when Sister Clare Lill came to the parish and asked for help in providing food for the Coalburg area. “This was when Father (Hilarion) Cann was pastor,” Deacon Hanna said. “We have been providing food at Thanksgivings and Christmas. Later we realized that the need was greater, and we added collections during the year. Emergency need collection of food as requested was added.” The food pantry provides the parish with a list of needed supplies each time there is a need, Deacon Hanna said. “We helped with school supplies for a time, helped them get refrigerators and stoves for fire victims,” he said. Deacon Hanna also recalled a time when young adults of the parish repaired houses in the Coalburg area, and former pastor Father Leon Alexander gave money from the tithe fund to pay for supplies. “We needed more supplies and were out of money,” Deacon Hanna said. “Sister Clare said get the supplies and she would reimburse me. I put the $400 on my credit card. When it came time to get reimbursed, Sister Clare said she would take the money out of the children’s Christmas fund. Needless to say I never got paid,” Deacon Hanna said loving. “I told Sister Clare that she was the best con artist for Jesus I ever met.” Blessed Sacrament’s most recent collection for the food pantry was a gathering of provisions that the parish’s youth ministry sorted and load- ed into the trailer, Deacon Hanna said, and “it was done outside for safety concerns with the virus.” Father Finnell commended Debbie Wright, who he said is “the driving force at Good Shepherd,” for organizing the volunteers. “We have a long history of Blessed Sacra- ment helping the works of Good Shepherd,” Wright said.

Courtesy Photo Some of the food donations from members of Blessed Sacrament Parish in South Charleston await transport to the food pantry in Coalburg

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