By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

In response to the government shutdown and anticipated needs of furloughed government employees, St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences in the Diocese have responded in the Highlands area with a digital outreach.

Using the Highlands Facebook page as a bulletin board, Sue Jaquillard, immediate past-president and board member of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help SVDP Conference, teamed up with Tricia Curtin, manager of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Food Pantry – a ministry of OLPH-St. Agnes Parish, Atlantic Highlands – to ready their organizations for the expected increase in resource requests.

“Sue often uses the Highlands Facebook page as a way of staying in touch with what’s happening and what’s on our neighbors’ minds in the Highlands Community,” said Alan Tedesco, president of the Northern Monmouth County SVDP council. “After Hurricane Sandy devastated Highlands in 2012, the Facebook page was an invaluable means of neighbors communicating with each other and reaching out to each other to extend all sorts of assistance, kindnesses and critical information.  Sue recognized the same process could now help the furloughed victims at Sandy Hook.”

Nearby Sandy Hook National Park is host to federal employees who work at the Coast Guard and Park Ranger Stations. Jacquillard and Curtin are spreading the word that furloughed employees are most welcome to visit the OLPH Food Pantry weekly for a wide variety of food items to help them through this difficult time. The offer to help was only recently posted, so no responses have come in yet, but Tedesco said they expect to hear from people soon, especially as the government shutdown continues.

“Tricia is set to order additional food supplies as needed,” Tedesco said. “In addition to its regular Sunday and Monday hours, the Food Pantry is willing to open additional hours if needed to accommodate the schedules of the Coast Guard and Park Ranger employees.”

Much of the food is purchased at bulk rates from Fulfil, the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Parishioners and other donors also drop off food donations at the OLPH Food Pantry, located at 141 Navesink Ave. Recently, Tedesco noted, students from Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, and Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, completed highly successful food drives that helped stock the pantry shelves.

For more information about delivering food donations or to make monetary contributions, contact OLPH St. Vincent de Paul Society, 732-291-0271 ext. 120, or OLPH Food Pantry, 732-291-0271 ext. 110.