Since 1964, 8001 Longview Road in Kansas City, MO has been a site of community and hope. With the establishment of St. Matthew Parish, that address became a focal point of the neighborhood, becoming a place of connection, a visible sign of our care and concern for others, and a place where support is offered, dreams are nourished, and hope is fostered. The parish grew, and parishioners worshipped each Sunday in that location. However, over five decades, the neighborhood and the parish changed. The difficult decision to consolidate St. Matthews with Coronation of Our Lady had to be made.
It may have seemed like one door closed when the parish celebrated its final Mass in November of 2020, and that the legacy of service had come to an end. Nothing could be further from reality.
A new way to serve our community and live out our call to care for the vulnerable is launching on that hallowed ground. Catholic Charities was able to obtain appropriate zoning and complete the purchase of the former St. Matthew church and grounds in April of 2022 and moved interim operations to that location in June after completing some basic repairs. With visibility and easy accessibility from major thoroughfares like Blue Ridge Blvd, and Longview Road, this location is ideal for serving Kansas City and communities to the south by addressing food insecurity and other barriers faced by at-risk families.
Numbers served began at a modest level. However, we quickly saw organic growth. As we hired staff and made small physical improvements in the space, families placed their food choice orders online and picked them up at the pantry on Wednesdays. In December 2022, the pantry opened four days a week, eight hours per day. In the first eight days of operations in January, the pantry served 55 households, impacting 200 individuals including 65 children and 13 seniors. In those few days, we provided 2,747 pounds of food and 2,021 hygiene products. This is a major step toward our full operations.
We are still in the launch phase of this project, and our plans are for a full service, client choice food pantry that will nourish both body and soul for all who come to the Serve & Lift Center for help.
When complete, the pantry will feature a significant shopping area where individuals have a retail grocery store experience of walking through the aisles selecting their food from shelf stable, fresh produce, dairy and frozen food options.
A demonstration kitchen will offer recipes using the currently available foods in the pantry – some of which may be unfamiliar to our clients. Meeting space is planned to allow families and case workers or specialists to have private conversations and intake meetings so appropriate wrap around services may be identified and provided. Volunteers can assist families as they shop, work in the warehouse sorting and stocking food, or filling online orders for families who make their selections via our website.
The project is in architectural design and nearing the point of requesting general contractor bids.
The Gospel proclaimed at the last parish Mass was Matthew 25, which clearly calls us to give food, shelter and support to all of God’s people. Through the Serve & Lift Center, Catholic Charities can provide a hub for services and a place where those in need and those who wish to serve can create community and restore hope – and as the Gospel says, serve our God place families in the center of a ring of supportive services for their food, housing, and employment needs – all the life domains that lead to a stable and self-sufficient situation for them.
To learn more about the pantry and volunteering opportunities, reach out to Linda Hopkins, volunteer manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Walker, Executive Director, Outreach and Engagement