Group launches ‘40 Cans for Lent’ drive

PARKERSBURG -The Knights of Columbus and the local Catholic Charities have adopted a Lenten program to restock food pantries and provide relief in outlying counties.

Tuesday, officials announced the kickoff of the “40 Cans for Lent” drive at the Volunteer Action Center.

Fred Esker, program coordinator, said the campaign is an opportunity to restock local food pantries and use Lent for personal and family spiritual growth.

The 40 Cans drive is asking families to donate one can of non-perishable food for each day of Lent. The food will be collected on Sundays at St. Margaret Mary and St. Francis Xavier in Parkersburg and St. Monica in Lubeck. Boxes will be placed in the rear of the churches. The goal is to collect 2,500 pounds of canned goods.

“That’s 5,000, eight-ounce cans,” said Greg Herrick, grand knight of the Parkersburg Knights of Columbus.

Esker said officials have also reached out to the outlying parishes in Wirt, Roane, Pleasants, Ritchie and Jackson counties.

A collection station will be set up at the council home on Market Street. He encouraged those attending the weekly Friday fish fries to participate.

“Feed others, while you feed yourself,” he said.

Esker said the state Knights of Columbus will donate a $100 match for every 500 pounds of food collected, with a $500 maximum.

Deborah Shaffer, regional director of Catholic Charities West Virginia, said the program was done last year with the Knights of Columbus council and Catholic Charities outreach in Elkins.

“That’s how I first found out about it,” she said.

Jane Freeland, the mobile food pantry coordinator for Catholic Charities West Virginia, is recruiting volunteers to make deliveries to the outlying counties: Wirt, Gilmer, Calhoun, Doddridge, Ritchie and Roane. Shaffer said these are underserved counties.

Catholic Charities is a statewide entity, dividing the state into seven regions. According to Shaffer, it is the largest non-government social service provider in the state.

“We offer much more than food pantry,” she said. Catholic Charities provides social services, assists utilities, soup kitchens and provides medical and health assistance.

Monsignor Joseph Peterson, Parkersburg Knights of Columbus chaplain and pastor for St. Margaret Mary Church, endorsed the program.

“The program serves not only to provide immediate needs but to raise awareness. We are called to feed the hungry and respond to the less fortunate,” he said.

“Lent is a time to fast. Not only to deprive ourselves of food, but we give that food to those who need it.”