‘Can-a-Week’ helps Springfield hungry

First slide
First slide
Previous Next

Every Sunday, parishioners of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield drop off canned goods at boxes in the church's vestibule.

On Monday morning, volunteers from the parish "Can-a-Week" program collect the bags of food and line them up on the floor of the vestibule for distribution after the 9 a.m. Mass. There are usually three lines of food. Adults exiting Mass pick up food from the first two lines and take them to waiting cars in the parking lot. The last line is reserved for St. Bernadette School fifth-graders. The students come out of the sanctuary at a slow, respectful pace, then speed up to grab a bag and whisk it off to the parking lot. Parish volunteers load the food into parishioners' cars and drive to the nearby Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) warehouse where they are distributed to the area hungry.

According to Tom Nally, St. Bernadette team captain, there are about 30 parish team members who help with the "Can-a-Week" effort.

The program has been in existence at the church for about 20 years, but the group had a revitalization and reorganization effort over the summer. Team members stand in the vestibule with tags identifying them as "Can-a-Week" team members and direct people to drop-off boxes. Announcements in the bulletin help remind people to bring their canned goods.

"We stress high protein food, like meat and fish," said Nally.

The reorganization has helped people realize the importance of their activity, he said.

One man brings a can of Spam every week now. Nally said that some of the students don't know what it is.

"What's Spam?" Nally heard a student ask a friend.

"I think it's fish," was the answer.

Nally tells another story about an older woman who comes from nearby Greenspring retirement community in Springfield. She brings one can every week in a plastic bag tied to her walker.

The group's goal is 1,000 cans a week. Nally said they've only reached that twice over the last several months, but interest is rising and he believes that goal can be achieved and sustained if every family brings a "Can-a-Week."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015