By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – No halos or wings are in sight. The angels at St. Anne’s Human Services look like ordinary people, but they’re not. They give of their time and talents running a complicated, many-faceted operation to serve the needs of their community. These women and men live their faith on a daily basis. They run a thrift shop to make money to support a food pantry that serves almost 1,200 people. They manage a staff of about 150 volunteers. They find benefactors to help fund the good work they do.
Who are these angels? The director of human services at St. Anne’s is Elaine LeBlanc, who has been honored with many community service awards including Grand Marshal of the Spirit of Shrewsbury Fall Festival and the prestigious Harry S. Cutting Jr. award bestowed by Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services. LeBlanc began collecting articles for the needy at St. Anne’s back in the 1970s and her efforts led to the formation of the now thriving thrift shop and the extensive food pantry.
JoAnn Keegan is the food pantry manager. Seventeen years ago, she came to St. Anne’s for help. She was recently divorced and suffered from immune deficiency disease, arthritis and bursitis. In return for the support she received, she decided to volunteer.
“From the beginning I would sort and organize,” Keegan recalled. “We have a kind of assembly line. I would also carry the boxes up. A lot of our clients are elderly or have no families or people have lost their jobs. Being a client and living in Section 8 housing, I can really relate to the people who come for help. We ask no questions except for a license and a SELCO bill.”
Almost 500 households and 1,200 registered people pick up food. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, those in need are provided with turkey dinners as well as groceries.
In addition, Evelyn Jenkins and Kerry Barber are in charge of the Giving Tree Project, a town wide program in conjunction with other local churches, civic organizations, schools and businesses. Because of their efforts, over 175 children under 13 received toys, coats, snow pants, mittens and hats.
“At times, we’ve touched over 325 children,” explained Jenkins. Their back-to-school program provides school supplies and at Easter, 100 Easter baskets are distributed each year.
“We are a group of volunteer men and women of all ages, young and old, from various backgrounds and various economic situations,” LeBlanc said.
College and high school students have community service requirements. The courts allow young adults to serve community service sentences. St. Anne’s supports young adults with autism and other disabilities. Supervised volunteers come from Dismas House, which reconciles former prisoners to society. Prisoners who are close to release by the Worcester County Sheriff department also help out and in turn are helped to assimilate back into society. All of the proceeds generated are used for St. Anne’s outreach programs.
St. Anne’s welcomes donations of just about anything. Food, clothing, linens, household goods, furniture, books, monetary donations and volunteers are always needed. For more information, contact 508-799-4169 or [email protected]. Thrift shop and food pantry hours are listed on the website, www.stannesparish.org.