In the summer of 2017, Heart to Heart reported on the efforts of Father Thaddeus Rettger, O.S.B., and a group of volunteers from Saint Bernard Parish, Hastings, to establish a food pantry to serve the northern Cambria County area. The group, which does a twice-a-month distribution by the non-profit Peter Lemke Council of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, was initially working out of a space in nearby Carrolltown, but had an indication it might need to move. Approximately $120,000 in grants and donations was raised, property in Hastings purchased, and a new building constructed.
The first food distribution in the new building took place on October 17. A grand opening was held on Saturday, November 17, followed by an open house. Information was provided about eligibility for food assistance, the sources of food donations, and on the protocols of food safety.
The food pantry serves Hastings, Carrolltown, Nicktown, Northern Cambria, St. Benedict and the surrounding areas of northern Cambria County.
The food pantry is partnered with Food for Families, the Greater Food Bank of Pittsburgh, Johnstown Food Bank, United Way, several government programs, local churches, scouts, schools, rotary and civic organizations, local farmers and individuals as sources of foods and monetary donations. Approximately one in every four residents of the region is eligible for assistance.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2018, a month after the new facility opened, the food pantry held a special Thanksgiving food distribution. Father Thaddeus noted that the local Giant Eagle, in northern Cambria, contributed 100 turkeys. Families received vegetables, fruit, cereal, pasta, yams and other staples.
During the distribution Father Thaddeus took a few moments to meet with a group from Pittsburgh regarding expansion of services via a monthly produce distribution.
Volunteers packed and loaded boxes in assembly line fashion, getting families in and out quickly. The parking lot had dozens of cars in the snowy lot, and some drivers waited patiently along the road until others exited so they could find a spot. Father Thaddeus noted that more than 70 boxes were picked up in the first hour, making for a special holiday for all involved. For additional photos of the new facility visit https://archabbey.smugmug.com/.