John DeSantis, the business administrator at Sacred Heart Parish, right, and volunteers assist a client.
John DeSantis, the business administrator at Sacred Heart Parish, right, and volunteers assist a client.
On the third Tuesday of each month for more than 20 years, people in need of food know they can get a basic supply from Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton.  

But in November, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is dedicated to providing these folks all the food they need to cook a traditional holiday meal. 

“I’m very thankful for their help,” stated client Angela Council, as she stood in line watching Msgr. Dennis Apoldite, pastor, parish staff members and a host of volunteers assist the clients ahead of her. 

“They are all a great blessing,” Council said. 

While Sacred Heart Parish hosted its annual Thanksgiving food distribution again this year Nov. 23, it was held outdoors in the parish parking lot due to pandemic precautions.  

“It’s an absolute great feeling to help people in need and the volunteers are excited to help out as well,” said John DeSantis, parish business administrator and coordinator of the food distribution. In all, about 200 clients were given bags with non-perishable items like boxed stuffing, bread, dinner rolls and canned vegetables, as well as fresh vegetables, fruit and, the main course whether it’s a turkey breast, chicken or ham. All of the food is donated by parishioners or supplied by other area outreach agencies and is collected the weekend before the distribution. Volunteers then gather on Monday to prepare the bags. 

The way Laurel Stokes, one of the approximately 25 Sacred Heart parishioners who volunteered, sees it, “the best part” about the parish’s food distribution is that the clients are asked only one question – “How many adults and how many children are in need of food?”  

“We don’t ask their names or if they receive assistance such as food stamps,” Stokes said. “We just want to know the number of people in a family who need to be fed so we can give them the right amount.” 

After spending many years being a caretaker for family members, volunteer Pat McIntyre views helping with the food distribution as being a “caretaker in a different kind of way.” 

“I’m happy to help,” she said, “and share what I have with others.” 

As they have in past years, the Sacred Heart volunteers were joined by a dozen student-athletes from Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, all of whom are members of the schools’ Catholic Athletes for Christ chapter. Accompanying the students were Father Jason Parzynski, in his role as CAC chaplain, and Jim Treacy, a coach and CAC moderator. 

“One of the key things the Catholic Athletes for Christ tries to impart to the student athletes is that to be successful in life means more than being successful on the field. It is about growing as a person, challenging oneself, being aware of the needs of our community and above all, to recognize our need for Christ in our lives,” Father Parzynski said, noting that the CAC members regularly participate in outreach efforts such as the food distribution.  

“Athletes often have pedestals of influence,” Father Parzynski said, “and to help foster an awareness that is greater than the self is key for our ‘Cathletes’ as they grow into the men and women that God called and created them to be.” 

Rasheen Young, a junior and member of the football and track teams at Notre Dame, said he appreciated that CAC members participate in service, adding that on a personal level he finds community service especially meaningful since he had family members who were in need of assistance in the past. Now Young sees his outreach as an opportunity to give back. 

Senior Colin Treacy, who also plays football and runs track, said the food distribution in Sacred Heart Parish enhances his own celebration of Thanksgiving. 

“Watching people who are in tough situations and worried about whether or not they will be able to eat helps me to appreciate what I have all the more,” he said.