St. Thérèse Food Closet Receives Award

From the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

The St. Thérèse Food Closet, a ministry of St. Thérèse Parish in Sanford, is this year’s recipient of Catholic Charities Maine’s Matthew 25 Award.

The award, which includes a stained-glass plaque and a $5,000 donation, was presented to Barbara Russell, the Closet’s director, and to Father Wilfred Labbe, pastor of the parish, by Bishop Robert Deeley and Deacon Frank Daggett, program manager of Catholic Charities Maine Parish Social Ministry, during a Mass celebrated at Holy Family Church in Sanford on Saturday, July 23. Volunteers looked on from the front pews.

Matthew 25 awards are given to parishes to support social ministry programs. The food closet applied for the award, so it could continue to provide meat to its clients. Russell said while the closet used to be able to obtain frozen meat at no cost from the federal government, that is no longer the case, resulting in a “significant burden” on the closet’s resources.

“For years, the federal government has provided frozen meat every month for distribution to our clients. Four months ago, the shipments stopped, and they have given no indication when they will resume. Consequently, we’re forced to purchase the meat with our own funds. This grant will help us through these tough times,” Russell said.

In addition, part of the $5,000 award will be used this fall to purchase hats and gloves for some of the closet’s clients and to buy a few heavy coats in case a client shows up without one, which Russell said has happened in the past.

The food closet, which operates out of the St. Ignatius Gymnasium in Sanford, is open to anyone facing food insecurity, whether or not they live in the town. Last year, it served 2218 individuals.

The food closet depends on volunteers to operate, and last year, they put in approximately 1935 hours of service. Some have been helping out since the closet first began operating in 2016.

Following the award presentation at Holy Family Church, a reception was held at the food closet, giving the bishop an opportunity to learn more about how it operates and to chat with volunteers and with a couple of clients who live in the nearby St. Ignatius Apartments.

The food closet, which is open every Thursday from noon to 2 p.m., gives clients the opportunity to specify which items they want and need to ensure that food doesn’t go to waste.

The food being distributed comes from a monthly government allocation, which is supplemented thanks to donations from the parish community. If you would like to make a monetary donation to support the closet’s mission or are able to volunteer, contact Barbara Russell at (603) 970-0306 or visit