Saturday mornings at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Apex are busy, as more than 100 young people and adults make sandwiches that are delivered to Raleigh’s Moore Square.
The effort is part of the Brown Bag Ministry, which is run out of five areas churches. Each week, volunteers make 2,500 meals. Twice a month, volunteers also prepare a hot lunch for 250 homeless and hungry people.
“Pick, pack and place” are the simple instructions for the Brown Bag Ministry volunteers to follow on Saturday mornings.
Pick the brown-bag items: ingredients for the sandwiches, a crunchy item such as pretzels, fruit and a dessert. Pack the items into a bag and place it in a box for the truck to deliver to Moore Square, where volunteers distribute food to the masses who show up each week needing nourishment and encouragement.
For David Legarth, the Brown Bag Ministry is part of his family’s routine. His 10-year-old daughter Megan is among the youngest helpers in the kitchen. Legarth’s 16-year-old son Patrick volunteers as a kitchen coordinator.
On Wednesdays, Legarth’s wife goes to Aldi to buy baloney.
“It’s about putting our hearts and minds in balance by feeding people who are hungry,” said Legarth, who has been chairman of the St. Andrew church ministry for three years.
Each week, Legarth maps out a plan to ensure that food stops are made on time and in order. The first stop on Thursdays is at 7:30 a.m. to Ennis and McGee Produce at the farmers market to pick up fruit donations.
The Food Bank is next on the list for a one-hour shopping time to purchase other items for the bagged lunches and meat for the hot lunches. Bread of Life provides 300 to 400 loaves of bread and is the final stop for the day.
Once a month, volunteers visit Sam’s Club for staple items, including brown bags, blocks of cheese and bottled water.
Twice a month, Josephine Kmetz plans a hot meal. She learned to cook from her mother and has family in the restaurant business.
“God gave me a talent, and that’s why I’m here,” said Kmetz, who has planned the hot meals since 2005. “In the last eight and a half years, I have missed only two Saturdays. One was because of an ice storm, the other when Saturday fell on Christmas day.”
It takes a lot of talent to create a hot meal for 250 people on a budget of less than $50 – which is what a family of four may spend on just one meal out at a restaurant. On Oct. 12, Kmetz made Mexican lasagna using ground turkey that was donated by Perdue, ground beef that cost 18 cents a pound, several cans of tomatoes that were purchased at the food bank and blocks of cheese from Sam’s Club.
Side dishes included Spanish rice and beans. The final touch was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pieces Kmetz sprinkled into the brownie dessert.
Members of the National Charity League, a group for mothers and daughters, help twice a month.
“This is one volunteer opportunity that girls can get so much out of by packing the food and handing it to people in need,” said Kristin Lowe, vice president of communications for the Carolina Lily Chapter of the group in western Wake County. “You know you are making a difference when your kids ask to go.”
Maria Emami, along with her 10-year-old daughter, wanted to get her family back to the tradition of serving others. She lives in Apex and heard about the volunteer opportunity from a friend.
“If we don’t have contrast in children’s lives, they don’t have understanding of what others are going through,” Emami said.