By Tom Spalding, Boulevard Place Volunteer
A day before a group of Boulevard Place Food Pantry staff and volunteers held an open house and tour to mark the 10th anniversary at its current address, 105 shoppers came through our front door in need of assistance.
Call it the sobering Saturday before the celebratory Sunday.
The good news is the Pantry had enough items on hand to feed our clients and, for open house visitors, we possessed the energy and enthusiasm to talk about our milestone and the importance that donors and stakeholders play in keeping the mission going. Boulevard Place Food Pantry is a special work of the Indianapolis chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“We’re elated—blessed, frankly—to have been able to be of service to our community for a decade at Boulevard Place and 40 years overall since beginning at a church basement at St. Thomas Aquinas in 1982,” says Pantry Co-Director Cindy Brown. “When I think about the time that has passed, it’s the faces I think about. The face of Bob Kennie, our first director, and Mark Varnau, my predecessor. The faces of the thousands of people who we helped and the faces of those who gave of their time, talent and treasure so that we were well-positioned to continue to serve as a resource long into the future.”
During the open house, volunteers at six critical information stations described to visitors how we operate. We talked about the goal to have efficient practices when it comes to intake of food and non-perishables, how we adhere to high standards when it comes to food handling and safety, and how we are creative and compassionate when it comes to assisting clients with their food and goods needs. We talked about the new hybrid format so that the experience is consistent and dignified, regardless of whether the visit is indoors, or accomplished through to-go kits handed at our drive-up.
“Just as important to me as showing off our remodeled, reimagined facility is to talk to our guests about what really drives us—our people, our parishes and our purpose,” says Pantry Co-Director Matt Hayes, who held great conversations with a gamut of folks. Guests included: Monsignor Tony Volz of Christ the King Catholic Church; SVdP president Paul Ainslie and his spouse; several longtime neighbors; Ed Fujawa, president of the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association; and members of all five parishes that support Boulevard Place: St. Luke, Joan of Arc, Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Providing a reminder that food is important and discount food is just as nourishing, we handed out coupons courtesy of our generous fellow corner neighbor and longtime supporter, Hoagies & Hops. (Thanks, Kristina and team!)
Looking back over the past 10 years, certainly what stood out to many guests was the successful expansion of our warehouse, renovation of the shopping floor and brightening of our client waiting room, all which took place from 2019 to 2021. We were able to also introduce key members of the staff: TJ and Val.
What were our six stations all about? Our themes were Client Experience, The Volunteer Experience, and The Facilities, explains event co-coordinator Terry F. White.
- Entrance and Registration: When neighbors enter the building, they register and learn about the pantry activities. Hours and points are explained.
- Shopping: Walk through the shopping area and compare the offerings to those you shop for. How would you manage the point system for your family? Turn this sheet over for details.
- Weigh-in: Volunteers collect food donations, weigh it and track them. See if you can operate the scale!
- Repackaging: Many donations are packed in containers too big to distribute. Try stuffing some diapers or personal care items.
- Solar: Panels on the roof cover most of the pantry’s electric needs and our footprint on the earth is managed by our Energy Coordinator. Learn about the way panels work and what we reuse and recycle.
- The Garden: Grants funded a unique garden created by our own Master Gardeners, Mary Durkin and Inara Grendze, joined by St. Thomas eighth-grader Emmerson Bloede. Guests could touch and feel what plants are native in our landscaping and learn about their care.
Facts & Figures: Boulevard Place
- The 10-year-club! The committee that helped to relocate the Food Pantry from its previous home at St. Thomas Aquinas to 4202 N. Boulevard Place—at the time a former gas station converted to a business office—were Bob White, John Juerling, Mark Varnau and Tom Quinn. All but John are still able to continue contributing, and what a blessing!
- A point system is used to determine the amount of groceries shoppers may select on each visit. Shoppers are given 17 – 25 points to shop (self-select) depending upon family size. In addition, produce, bread, milk, eggs, baby food, treats, specialty and overstock items are given out for 0 points.
- The pantry is open three days during the week, including inside shopping on Thursdays and Saturdays with drive-up on Wednesdays. Drop-off food donations are able to be made on Tuesdays, during stocking hours (mornings) or by special arrangement. Call us (317-924-3461) for hours or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.