On a Sunday afternoon, you might find Father Kenneth Carriveau at the lower level of the Santa Barbara Church in Dededo putting more food on the shelf.
Outside there’s a steady flow of people who make their way to the glass doors and wait until Carriveau’s assistant, Nathan Siguenza, opens the door. He checks their temperature, makes sure their names are on the list as registered, then lets them in. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, only a few people are allowed to enter at a time.
Carriveau uses the old classrooms at the church to store donated food and sundries and assist people in need. It’s a temporary facility for the Santa Barbara Parish Pantry program as they await the completion of the nearby house for priests.
“This started many, many years ago, way before I got here,” Carriveau said of the pantry. “When we were dealing out of the priest house, we were getting anywhere between 25 and 30 (people) a week. Now we are up to 300. As you can see, heads of families come and go shopping for food and sundries or toiletries.”
In the small room, are three four-level shelves with canned meats, tuna, beans, fruits and other goods. There are also bags of rice, packets of peanut butter and jelly alongside small bags of bread. On the bottom shelves are rows of bottled water.
As each person walks in, they present a passport, which indicates whether they’re already receiving federal help such as food stamps to help indicate the level of assistance needed. And then they get to pick from the shelves the amount of food designated for their family.
“They come three times a week (and) they get food for two days. Many of them are homeless and they have nowhere to store (food)," Carriveau said. "They have no cupboards because they live on a park bench or whatever house they can find that’s abandoned that they can stay in.
“We have a very large ministry, and you’ve seen how many people have come and gone in just a short period of time. We’re only open two to three hours a day and during that time we service a lot of people.”
The pantry receives donations from the community to help keep it stocked.
“We have donations practically every Sunday — we have steady donations from the parishioners. But we also have donations from outside the parish. And we appreciate those very much,” he said.
Carriveau said he is at the lower level of the church about 30 minutes before opening hours to accept donations. Pantry hours are:
• 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
• 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
He said their need for supplies depends on the needs of the people they serve. On the Santa Barbara Catholic Church Facebook page, they regularly update the list of items that are in high demand. The latest listing shows:
Proteins: Spam or similar product; vienna sausage; tuna in water; corned beef hash; canned pasta with meat.
Drinks: whole or chocolate milk (5-10 fluid ounces)
Fruits and vegetables: fruit juice (5-10 fluid ounces)
Starches: Calrose rice
Sundries: Manual can openers; cloth shopping bags; Pampers; baby formula
He said the ministry has been blessed to have the support of so many.
In this time of the pandemic he shared this message: “Be true to yourself and pray to the Lord that He’s going to continue being generous to us.”