Catholic Charities volunteers load up a line of cars with boxes of milk, bread, butter, fruits, vegetables, meat, cakes and snacks, among other things, outside Our Lady of Fatima Mission Church in Macy July 6. Workers pictured in the forefront, filling the open car are, from left, Mikaela Schuele, director of emergency and supportive food services for Catholic Charities; and volunteers Luke Lenz of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha and Deacon Al Aulner of Holy Ghost Parish in Omaha. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


Demand grows for Catholic Charities mobile food pantry in Macy, Walthill

Vehicles lined the street leading to Our Lady of Fatima Mission Church in Macy and wound around the corner out of view.

Outside the church – on pallets along the street from two trucks – a food pantry was being set up, as two Catholic Charities staff members and several volunteers prepared items for roadside distribution.

They were ready with milk, bread, butter, fruits, vegetables, meat, cakes and snacks, plus some ready-made sandwiches and other items, such as hand sanitizer.

A local food pantry earlier had dropped off a truckload of goods, with Catholic Charities filling in other needed items and supplying the necessary volunteers.

As the heat rose and humidity seemed to thicken on July 6, vehicles slowly made their way through the distribution line, ready to be loaded with trunks and car doors opened.

“Thank you for coming!” a volunteer said in her brief encounters with the Macy area residents. “Tell others to come! God bless!”

One of the food recipients – a father of two teenage boys, who like others is struggling with rising fuel and food costs – welcomed the extra supplies.

“I’m pretty grateful,’ he said from his vehicle. “I don’t like taking handouts, but I appreciate it. … It helps out like heck.” 

He planned to pick up some extra food for his mother.

After an hour or so, the volunteers packed up what was left and headed northwest. They set up their mobile pantry again, this time in Walthill, another Thurston County community about eight miles away and also within the Omaha Reservation.

During the two mobile pantry stops, Catholic Charities served 169 families, a total of 695 people, distributing 10,378 pounds of food, said Mikaela Schuele, director of emergency and supportive food services for the organization.

“This is a huge increase from our 95 families served last month,” the first mobile food pantry effort for Catholic Charities, she said.

Catholic Charities has set aside the first Tuesday of the month for the mobile food pantry in Macy and Walthill, with the hope that more people in need can be helped as awareness grows.

“The need we are addressing in Thurston County is immense,” Schuele said, citing high rates of child food insecurity, health care costs, residents enrolled for federal food assistance and with more than half living below the federal poverty threshold.

Average household income for the county is $22,000, she said, and the county also has the highest rate of Type II diabetes in Nebraska at 18.8% of the population.

Building ties with the residents and determining their needs and desires is important, Schuele said. “We’ll just continue to adjust as the months go by and continue to build a strong relationship.”

During the first mobile pantry in June, “we were very well received, and everybody was beyond kind,” she said.

Deacon Al Aulner, a member of Holy Ghost Parish in Omaha and one of the volunteers, said he enjoys being part of one community helping another: the Native Americans in the archdiocese.

“You don’t have much time in a drive-through pantry to visit or talk,” he said, “but it’s always good to be there to help.”

Deacon Aulner said he’s enjoyed working with volunteers, young and old. “It’s nice to meet new folks and work with them.”

More volunteers, from a variety of locations, are needed. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Dave Vankat, senior director of community relations for Catholic Charities, at or 402-829-9319.

Food pantry donations are welcome as well, and could include shelf-stable items such as cereal, pasta, pasta sauces, peanut butter and jelly. They can be dropped off at the Juan Diego Center, 5211 S. 31st St., Omaha.

School supplies especially are needed this time of year, Schuele said.

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