When Rich Green, director of the food pantry at St. Matthew’s church, found out in early September that the church building was closing in a matter of weeks, the news was shocking. It sent him scrambling to find a new home for the pantry, which many members of the surrounding community rely upon as a source of food each week.
Initially, the archdiocese of Boston had ruled out any chance for an extension while a possible move to St. Angela’s in Mattapan fell apart due to a lack of space.
“All our volunteers were set to hang up their aprons, and I felt a responsibility to do anything I could to keep it open,” said Green.
What happened next, Green said, was “a miracle. I was out of options, and in mid-September I just happened to knock on the door across the driveway from St. Matthew’s rectory.”
That encounter introduced Green to Martha Langley, executive director of Wesley Child Care, located in the building on Stanton Street that was the former site of St. Matthew’s Elementary School. Langley told Green that a room in the basement filled with old school desks and furniture could serve as a space for a food pantry.
Langley’s son, a contractor, agreed to help retrofit the space. With a “ticking clock” due to thousands of pounds of refrigerated and frozen food in the old space, a team of volunteers filled two dumpsters worth of junk from the basement and retooled the room as a food storage facility in the span of two weeks.
Last Friday, Oct. 9, the food pantry officially reopened to clients, with Langley posing front and center alongside Rev. Jack Ahern at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“She salvaged this business,” said Green. “She had a leap of faith and allowed us to continue our mission to feed the hungry out of her basement.”
The stroke of fortune and generosity means the St. Matthew’s Food Pantry can continue the mission of Sister Mary Damian, who founded the pantry in the 1980s and passed away in May of this year.
Green said that more than over 35 patrons attended the event on Friday, each of whom likely fed up to four others at home with food from the pantry, for a total of around 140 people fed.
“I’m so happy we could continue serving the community during this pandemic because people are so hungry, and it’s so important to be able to fill that need...we were about a heartbeat away from closing. I know not as many people are religious these days, but I think it was a miracle.”