“Happy Thursday! Groceries! Sister Connie!” Accompanied by a loud knock on each door, it’s a welcoming greeting to Plymouth’s most vulnerable, repeated numerous times two days a week by PHJC Volunteers delivering food and supplies. PHJC Volunteers provide food and essentials to one trailer park and two transient hotels twice weekly. Sister Connie is ensuring that 60 migrant farmworkers have sack lunches and morning coffee, to supplement the single daily meal their employer offers.
With consistency and bereft of fanfare, the PHJC Volunteer program has made a community impact for Plymouth’s most vulnerable residents. Plymouth’s two transient hotels and a trailer park behind the Duke of Oil attest to the unstable housing in the area. These stats for the first half of 2021 also indicate food insecurity:
- Sack lunches – 3,280
- Extra Sandwiches – 1,295
- Cultivate frozen meals – 2,940
- Grocery bags – 3, 928
- Hygiene bags – 384
Additionally, she provides clients with diapers, baby wipes, home linens, and personal care products, which everyone needs but cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits. Currently, the program is in need of donations. Groceries are increasingly more expensive, and it takes money to feed those most vulnerable. VTO hours can also be used to both pack items and for the twice-weekly deliveries.
There’s also a story that stats don’t tell. Sister Connie has built a coalition of stakeholders in Marshall County who are dedicated to eliminating hunger. They include the Community Foundation, the United Way and the Food Council, all of Marshall County, Cultivate Food Rescue of South Bend, and the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center tobacco cessation program.
The PHJC Sisters have a long history of service to the migrant communities where they serve, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the 1980s, Sister Edith Schneider taught and assisted migrant children of workers picking tomatoes and peppers in Marshall County. She went on to serve in both Nicaragua and Mexico. Sister Connie Bach has taken myriad trips to the border and into Mexico to serve those awaiting entry into the U.S. and those newly arrived. It’s a volunteer full circle with Ernesto serving twice a week on the delivery trips into Plymouth.
As we currently live in a time in history where uncertainty is the name of the game and quarantining and staying home are the rules, what do you do when you haven’t all the resources required to play? For many in Plymouth and the surrounding area this is unfortunately the case; and for several community organizations including our very own Volunteer program spearheaded by Sister Connie Bach, that is an unacceptable reality.
With a 10.9% poverty rate in Marshall County, we are ranked the 45th poorest county in the state stats.indiana.edu, a statistic only exacerbated by the recent pandemic, rising unemployment rates, in addition to the looming end of the moratorium on evictions. Sister Connie and many other community leaders via a recent round table discussion regarding these staggering facts have decided they aren’t about to wait for the game or the rules to change. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday these amazing and selfless individuals consisting of many, many additional volunteers have been coming together to feed the homeless in our community as well as provide them with additional items needed to keep warm during these cold winter months. “Several afghans have been received, and Sisters are feverishly making hats, scarves, and mittens” said Sister Connie. “However we are also in need of hygiene products as well as many other items that can be found on a list distributed throughout the Motherhouse, we are also accepting monetary donations delivered to the Development department earmarked for the PHJC Volunteer Homeless Project” she continued.
As with any incredible opportunity to help the community, leadership has granted employees Volunteer Time Off (VTO) eligibility to assist in this effort. Many have been gathering weekly behind Cana Hall to pack sack lunches and distribute items to those in need as well as lend an ear and a voice for many who feel lost or alone during a time when all any of us want is to be together and safe. Sister Connie states that this is an ever-evolving process and one that will continue as long as housing and safety are an issue for our community members. If you would like to participate in these ongoing efforts, please reach out to Sister Connie for additional information on times and growing needs. Let us also rejoice in our love and faith of one another and the knowledge that despite the situation at hand we are never truly alone when we hold God in our hearts.