SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Please note: Interviews for this story were conducted the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 4. St. Anne's was apparently robbed later that night.
Only five households registered to get help when a group of Shrewsbury residents, including Elaine Leblanc, opened the food pantry at St. Anne's Church in 1958.
Today, St. Anne's Human Services aids more than 1,500 people, including 633 families.
St. Anne's is now helping more Shrewsbury residents than ever before, Leblanc said. To help those individuals and families have a happier holiday, the organization is collecting toys, gift cards and food.
It is seeking toys for newborns to children age 13, and gifts cards for teens and parents. Volunteers at St. Anne's are hoping to collect most of holiday donations by Dec. 18.
St. Anne's relies solely on donations and receives no government funding. Income is generated by the St. Anne's Thrift Store, as well as by donations by from individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Food for the pantry is donated or purchased from the Worcester County Food Bank.
The organization also provides 30 areas of service, including hosting a free medical clinic, supporting domestic violence programs, stocking soup kitchens, helping the homeless and more.
Spokeswoman JoAnn Keegan knows about having to rely on St. Anne's for help. Keegan was once a client. "My son would not have had Christmas gifts" if it had not been for help one year from St. Anne's.
St. Anne's operates year-round, and Keegan and Leblanc said the need will not disappear after Dec. 25. Children will still need coats to get them through a long winter. Adults will need every day supplies, such as tissues and laundry detergent. The homeless will still need to eat. Students and adults have opportunities to volunteer, through schools and community outreach programs.
St. Anne's needs gift cards for supermarkets and stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens.
"Any gift – a gift card, cash – is going to help at any time of the year," Keegan said.
St. Anne's parishioners donate through the church's giving tree during the holidays. Year-round, anyone can drop off donations of clothing, food or other products or mail donations to the Food Pantry, Attention: JoAnn Keegan: St. Anne's Church, 130 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury, MA 01545.
Checks can be made out to St. Anne's Human Services.
For more information, call 508-799-4169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.