May 6, 2022

New food pantry in Brazil is result of ‘sweat equity, hours and support’

Father John Hollowell, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Brazil, prepares to cut a ribbon during an opening ceremony for the parish’s new St. Vincent de Paul food pantry building on April 23. Holding the ribbon are Larry Tempel, left, Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham and Patrick Hardman, president of the Annunciation Parish St. Vincent de Paul conference in Brazil. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Father John Hollowell, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Brazil, prepares to cut a ribbon during an opening ceremony for the parish’s new St. Vincent de Paul food pantry building on April 23. Holding the ribbon are Larry Tempel, left, Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham and Patrick Hardman, president of the Annunciation Parish St. Vincent de Paul conference in Brazil. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

BRAZIL—Two years ago, Patrick Hardman knew the situation at Annunciation Parish’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry was critical.

“Our numbers were climbing,” said the president of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference. “We were trying to [serve] 70-80 families a week.”

The pantry itself was cramped. Begun about 10 years ago, it was located in an area of about 600 square feet in the basement of the Brazil parish’s former school.

Pandemic restrictions lowered that space to about 200 square feet—less room as the need for more food rose. The pantry couldn’t even hold all of its five large refrigerators and freezers.

And hauling food up and down the basement steps was taking its toll on older clients and volunteers alike.

“We wanted and needed to get out of there,” Hardman emphasized.

“So when I look at this beautiful building behind me, I just can’t believe it’s done.”

He made that statement to a crowd of about 80 people on April 23 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Annunciation Food Pantry’s new, 1,800 square-foot building adjacent to the parish’s parking lot.

Looking at the building, Hardman said, “Every time I see it, it just almost makes me cry because of all the dedication, all the money, all the wonderful things we’ve accomplished.”

‘Sweat equity, hours and support’

The groundbreaking took place about 18 months prior, said Hardman. The pandemic and weather delayed the structure’s progress.

“The builders put it up in five days back in September,” he said. “We worked on it ourselves all winter. It got to where we couldn’t go further and had to wait for others to do the plumbing and electric.”

But the end result is worth the wait, he noted. The added square footage will hold all of the pantry’s refrigerators and freezers and allow more office space, more room for storing furniture and more space to set out food so clients can choose their own items.

Many blessings came along the way, Hardman said. The IBEW Local 725 in Terre Haute installed the electrical work for free, a savings of $15,000, and companies contracted for other work did so at discounted rates.

“And I couldn’t have done it without our council members,” he said, pointing out vice-president Mike Robinson, treasurer Ed Burt, secretary Annette Meyers and grant writer Brenda Stallcop.

Indianapolis St. Vincent de Paul council president Paul Ainslie was on hand for the ceremony. The council donated to the food pantry project.

“Our small donation and our support has been nothing compared to the sweat equity, the hours working and community support it took to make this happen,” he said.

The Indianapolis council also donated a food truck to the pantry.

“We go to the Terre Haute Catholic Charities food bank every Monday,” said Hardman. “If it wasn’t for them providing us food for 19 cents a pound, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

“But we were burning the heck out of our pickups trying to haul over a ton and half of food—sometimes up to two tons. So we are forever indebted to St. Vincent de Paul in Indianapolis for giving us this truck.”

While the number of clients has dropped slightly since the height of the pandemic, the pantry still feeds about 25% more families a week than before the pandemic, said Hardman.

That equates to 60-65 families a week—families just like his when he was growing up.

‘It’s an awesome thing’

“I grew up in poverty,” Hardman shared in an interview with The Criterion.

Life was not easy growing up, he said. But after his hard-working father suffered severe burns “in a horrible fire,” life became even harder.

“We were members of Annunciation Parish, and we relied heavily on the church for help,” said Hardman. “I don’t know what we would’ve done without Annunciation.”

He joined the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference eight years ago after working more than 43 years for the Kroger grocery chain and in farming.

“I’m 100% for what I’m doing now” for St. Vincent de Paul, he said. “I’m a true believer in giving back.”

So is Larry Tempel. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, he fought back tears as he shared with the crowd about the decades of devoted service his parents, Edna and Leander Tempel, dedicated to their local St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Tempel’s father died two years ago, just as talk of the new food pantry initiative was getting under way. It was clear to Tempel and his wife Martha where his father’s money should go.

When Annunciation pastor Father John Hollowell blessed the new building during the event, he also blessed its new name: Leander and Edna Tempel Hall.

Thanks to the Tempels’ contribution, fundraisers, donations by parishioners and organizations, and free and discounted work by contractors, “This building is paid for, people!” Hardman said with a broad smile.

Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham smiled too.

“I can’t thank you enough for all the good that you do, all the food that’s distributed, about a ton and a half a week—that’s just amazing,” he said during the ceremony. “You hear the term movers and shakers. Look around, because they’re all standing right here today.”

Two of those movers and shakers, Hardman and Burt, were recognized by a surprise honor.

“This whole thing wouldn’t have happened without Ed and Pat,” said conference vice-president Mike Robinson as he presented them a plaque in appreciation of their efforts. “They’re the brains behind this whole operation.”

Speaking with The Criterion, Father Hollowell took the accolades further.

“We have a lot of wonderful volunteers who have put their heart and soul into this project,” he said. “They’ve shown tremendous dedication and passion to serving the poor in our area and giving them food.

“It’s an awesome thing for our community.” †

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