The church's social services ministry has been helping feed those in need since 1985.
Gretel Abad Ostrowski is proud of the widespread support by parishioners of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church for aiding those in need in Ormond Beach. Thanks to the over 120 volunteers and numerous donations, the social services ministry is able to feed about 500 families a month.
And now with the new addition on the church's campus that houses a bigger food pantry, Ostrowski, director of social services, is looking forward to being able to help more.
“There’s no way that one person could do this," Ostrowski said. "Together, we’re doing it based in our faith. We believe that as a group, when we make this possible, that we’re acting as the body of Christ.”
The new space was blessed by Pastor Bill Zamborsky on Sunday, Dec. 2. The $1.2 million project also included a large meeting room, an addition to the Prince of Peace Like New Shop and a new chapel, which will open in January. The project had been in the works since the early 2000s, Ostrowski said, but fundraising began in earnest in 2008 and was meant to be completed at the same time as the Like New Shop; however, due to the recession, Prince of Peace was only able to open the thrift shop in 2014.
It all worked out though, as the thrift shop's success tripled since moving from the Tomoka Plaza to its new building — customers and donations included.
The food pantry was the brainchild of parishioners Norma Gault and Pauline Schariter, who began the social services ministry in 1985. The food pantry was housed in a classroom, and storage space was limited.
“It was a gymnastic kind of event to try to get the food on there," Ostrowski said.
Volunteer Jim Weite remembers those days. He began helping out in the food pantry over 11 years ago, starting as a bagger and then progressively getting more involved with ordering food and picking it up. It's almost turned into a full-time job, he said. Over the years, the ministry has gone from buying about $300 a week in groceries to now almost $1,000.
“It’s come a long way," Weite said.
There just wasn't enough room in the old location, and it was very labor intensive for their volunteers, Ostrowski said. They had to unload food in the sidewalk and wheel it down long hallways. Now, trucks are able to unload just behind the new pantry room.
“To me, this is the best part of the whole construction project," Ostrowski said.
According to a press release, in 2017, Prince of Peace distributed 5,785 bags of food, 389 clothing vouchers and 319 shelter vouchers. It also provided families with assistance to pay over 100 utility bills. Ostrowski said this is part of their Catholic faith, and while they know it's not addressing the root cause of poverty — which she said is very much present in Ormond — it's helping the symptoms.
“What jobs pay in this area is not always a living wage, where you can work full-time and not have enough for the basics in your family," Ostrowski said. "So that’s where we come in.”