On every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, the volunteers of La Purisima Church Trinity Guild work diligently to transform the parish’s parking lot into a large mobile food pantry site for 200 needy families in the Orange community.
Before 7 a.m., a volunteer, who is also among the needy families, will begin to distribute numbers to each person while other volunteers set up tables and begin placing cones for an organized line distribution. By 8:45 a.m., a large truck from Second Harvest Food Bank rolls in to deliver 5,000 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and other items. The parish pantry’s small size doesn’t allow room for a large refrigerator so the Trinity Guild’s partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank enables them to offer fresh food to more people. By 9 a.m., the lines open and families start making their way around the tables to get what they need.
“It’s a delight,” said Kathy Brunner, co-president of La Purisima Church Trinity Guild. “People arrive, the volunteers arrive, the truck arrives. Everybody is happy.”
In addition to fruits, vegetables, cereals, tortillas and other food staples, each family receives two-dozen fresh eggs. Thanks to a farm in Corona, the pantry regularly receives 600 dozen eggs twice a month.
The guild’s volunteers spend time each week shopping and monitoring sales ads to find the best deals on food items they know that people need. Eighth grade students from the parish school also pitch in. Students will either distribute food or help the disabled carry grocery bags to their car.
“We are a very organized, well-oiled machine,” said Brunner. “Our organization is thriving due to the generous spirit of our volunteers and the generous giving of our community.”
In addition to the mobile pantry, the guild also manages a weekly food pantry on Mondays, Fridays and the first, third and fifth Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m. until noon. It consistently has an average of about 35 volunteers working each week. Through its efforts every month, the guild feeds more than 3,500 people.
Through partnerships with Catholic Charities, local community colleges, job organizations, Lestonnac Free Clinic and parishioners, the guild is also able to offer people job referrals, blood pressure and diabetes support and food stamps during its weekly pantry hours.
“We have a core group of people who actually earmark their donations in the parish collections for the Trinity Guild and that has been very helpful,” said Mary Anne Brunner, co-president of the Trinity Guild.
The parish regularly receives food items from its parishioners that also keep the pantry shelves stocked. The church also manages a small garden that was started by an Eagle Scout five years ago. Cilantro, lettuce and other fresh vegetables from the garden are donated to the pantry.
In 2014, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County awarded the Trinity Guild with the Agency of the Year Award, a program that recognizes nonprofits who have done an excellent job of providing food and assistance for low-income individuals and families.
“They were involved in multiple programs and were very willing to grow their work and have great staff and volunteers,” said Kelly Alesi, Community Partner Development and Support manager for Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County. “This distribution is client-centered and very dignified. They have an amazing client-choice pantry with mobile pantry distributions every other week. They have wonderful volunteers who have been with the parish for a long time and truly love what they do.”
Second Harvest Food Bank partners with 220 organizations to distribute food in Orange County; La Purisima Parish’s twice-monthly mobile pantry is among the top 20 distribution sites.
Women of the parish who wanted to reach out to the needy of the community formed the Trinity Guild 50 years ago.
“There were ten of us in the group at the time,” said Nora Razo, one of the original members of the guild and who is still active today. “The pantry was started in a parishioner’s garage. Word traveled and people would knock on the door and we would give them food. Donations would come from parishioners. Now it’s bigger with more people donating and we have a budget.”
Over time, the group became organized and membership grew as well as the need for space for members to gather and do their work. Moving the pantry to the church solved their issues.
When asked how the guild has managed to successfully and consistently run the pantry year after year, the answer was simple.
“We just wanted to help our community,” said Razo. “There are a lot of people that need our help and our goal is to feed the community.”
Today, the guild has a total of more than 110 members. About 25 of them are original members from the first year the group was formed. The guild consists of parishioners from La Purisima as well as other Catholic churches and other faiths. Membership is open to anyone.
“Our mission is to feed the needy however in doing so we create a wonderful cross-cultural experience for our volunteers,” said Kathy Brunner. “This extends to our cross-cultural recipients of the food we distribute.”
If you are interested in getting involved with the Trinity Guild, contact the parish office at 714-633-5800.