Simon House director Lucy Lutjelusche cuts the ribbon for a new stand-alone freezer for the Columbus nonproft organization during a Nov. 4 ceremony. Behind her, from left, are Father Wayne Pavela, Columbus Mayor James Bulkley and Nebraska’s first lady, Suzanne Pillen. SUSAN SZALEWSKI

Living Mercy

Giant freezer considered a miraculous addition for Columbus charity

Miracles happen at Simon House in Columbus.

Whenever a need arises, the Holy Spirit seems to take care of it, say those who operate Simon House, a joint venture of the St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences at Columbus’ three Catholic parishes: St. Isidore, St. Bonaventure and St. Anthony.

Simon House is a distribution site for people in need that includes a thrift store, food pantry and chapel. Thousands are helped there each year.

The latest miracle at Simon House: the construction of a giant stand-alone freezer – measuring 20-by-25 feet that can hold a semitrailer worth of meat and will help feed people in need in Columbus and across much of northeast Nebraska.

“Miracles happen here every day,” said Mark Massman, board of directors president for Simon House, during a Nov. 4th ribbon-cutting ceremony for the freezer room.

Donations come in precisely when they’re needed, he said, including the freezer, which came about through a $110,000 grant by Tyson Foods and $90,000 from 152 Simon House donors.

The food processing company agreed to help fund the freezer if Simon House could raise $50,000 toward the project. Local donations exceeded that amount but ended up being necessary because of inflation and costs of utilities and insurance, said Bonnie McPhillips, a Simon House board member.

Columbus Mayor James Bulkley, a former Simon House board member, helped connect Tyson with Simon House. The company has helped establish similar freezers in other communities across the United States, but predominately in large metropolitan areas.

Tyson has agreed to keep the freezer stocked with meat through regular donations of chicken, pork and other forms of protein. Simon House, in turn, becomes a regional food hub, sharing the meat with more than 20 food pantries across a large stretch of northeast Nebraska, “from Norfolk to Fremont,” Massman said.

“It’s just an awesome opportunity for us to help more people in our area,” McPhillips said.

The freezer and meat donations are timely, she said, as needs and costs grow. “If you’re feeding a family, meat right now is extremely expensive.”

“We’re just so excited and blessed” now that the three-year process of obtaining the freezer is over and the new meat donations can be distributed to individuals and families, said Lucy Lutjelusche, director of Simon House.

McPhillips agreed.

“I’ve been on the board at the Simon House for over 20 years now,” she said, “and it’s just always amazing how the Holy Spirit helps us out when we have these kind of things come our way.”

Father Wayne Pavela, a retired archdiocesan priest, blesses the new freezer during the Nov. 4 ribbon-cutting ceremony. SUSAN SZALEWSKI


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