Skip to main content

By Tom Spalding, Communications Coordinator

We kicked off 2024 talking about how we were able to identify our strengths and opportunities. With endeavors large and small, we continue to live out those ideals and put aspirations into action.

Case in point: an increasing interest in the non-food items offered to shoppers.

Food distribution is 99% of the focus of our mission—and we gave a lot of it (676,000 pounds worth) away during the 2023 fiscal year. But you’ll see a lot more nonfood goods on the shelves that also go toward helping clients make ends meet, from brand-name shampoo to temporary eyelashes.

“One of the takeaways from our analysis of the pantry operations was that we look at current practices at other food pantries in Central Indiana, including our partners at St. Vincent de Paul on 30th Street,” according to TJ Ranft, Pantry Operations Manager. “What we learned from ‘touring’ these pantries is there’s a definite need for hygiene products of all types.”

Whenever we can find a bulk supply of those types of items, we jump at the opportunity to make that purchase. On a recent day, we spotted toothpaste, diapers, lotion, paper towels, vitamin gummies—and those eyelashes.

“Offering variety is another SWOT-identified specialty we have, and it’s the variety that helps us to continue our legacy of providing a place of dignity for shoppers,” said Matt Hayes, Pantry Director.

If you are an organization interested in conducting any type of “food” drive, consider changing things up a bit and holding a “nonfood” drive. We’d love to help out.

Reminder: Our Board devoted its September 19 meeting to a “SWOT” analysis of the pantry. The intent of this process was to seek and develop clarity about steps to take over the next 2 to 3 years to build on our strengths.

The SWOT process, facilitated by treasurer Terry White, helped identify factors within the four SWOT areas: internal to the pantry (Strengths and Weaknesses) and external to the pantry (Opportunities and Threats).

Next steps: Pantry Director Matt Hayes will be sharing the lengthy SWOT results with stakeholders, eventually including each pastor of the five primary supporting parishes. We’re also seeking to grow our interactions with the St. Vincent de Paul Council, having recently met with their treasurer. Relationships are so key.

What made us smile this month

Treasured: Every donation is important, and we value every donation. But we especially appreciate donations from young people like Ruth, giving a cash donation to Phyllis this afternoon. Thank you, Ruth. The future is bright because of people like you.

Time: A big welcome to our newest volunteers, Carey and Carol Kinghorn Landry. Every one of our volunteers has a part to play, and we appreciate every one of them.

Topical: On February 23, we had a friendly conversation with Nikki Aughenbaugh, our Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana local service manager. This was part of our Gleaners’ Annual evaluation visit. Nikki offered great suggestions about how we can improve our (already great) services to shoppers. Thanks, Nikki, and thank you Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Inc.

Speaking of Gleaners, hopefully, you saw them as part of this great article about how they are working to combat food insecurity like never before. (It’s available to watch on replay at WISH-TV Channel 8.

As the story says, Gleaners is increasingly focused on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dairy items, sending food out to a network of 300-plus extraordinary partners throughout its service area – that includes us! On Tuesday, March 4, our regular delivery day, we received 3,650 pounds from Gleaners. Contrary to what you may think, this bounty was not free. We paid for it through your donations! The difference is the savings we receive come from buying bulk!

Tentpoles: Many of you likely enjoyed the snowy but very slick Saturday we had on February 17, perhaps you might have even slept in. Not for us! Our dedicated volunteer contributors include John Hurley, pictured at the client sign-in desk. John has been volunteering his time since around 2011 – the year before we moved to our current location at 4202 N. Boulevard Place. John was there back when the Pantry was in its old home in the basement of the church at St. Thomas Aquinas.

Trends: On January 12, TJ on our staff hosted 32 third graders from the International School (bringing items purchased at Walmart from money gained through fundraising) who came to learn about the work of the pantry. While we are busy, the lessons our Pantry can provide to youth are invaluable and worth the time.

Then, on February 11, we went out and about as part of Catholic Schools Week and the Super Bowl. Saint Simon the Apostle Catholic School had a canned soup drive and donated 798 cans totaling 1,725 pounds to the Boulevard Place Food Pantry, and students helped us get all the numerous boxes loaded into the van. We are so appreciative!

Testimony: We appreciate two recent 4-star reviews on Google and two recent 5-star reviews on Google, including Michael Angelo, who also wrote: “Great place. Very nice people.”

We agree!