November 18, 2006
Cordova Food Locker reaches out
to the homeless and working poor
Cordova Community Food Locker volunteers, from left, Jerry Corbett, David Shrader and Colin McElwee, package food for one of the guests on the grounds of St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova.
Cathy Joyce/Herald photo
By Nancy Westlund
Herald staff
The whole thing started out simply enough.

A couple of members of St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova decided to open a food locker, which was a kind of “mom and pop” effort to feed hungry people.

They ran their idea by Father Daniel Madigan, founder of Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

What happened next was the Cordova Community Food Locker was born, an ecumenical effort teaming up 240 volunteers from several Rancho Cordova churches, a project that has now fed over one million people.

Founded in 1987, this outreach to the homeless and working poor living in the Rancho Cordova area has always been about what is possible when passionate people work together.

It began when Deacon Walter Little, long-time member of St. John Vianney Parish, was completing his permanent diaconate training. He consulted with the parish’s pastor at the time, Father Michael McKeon, who suggested opening a parish food closet.

“The idea of ministering in the workplace where I could really be involved with people seemed like something solid,” Deacon Little said.

At the advice of Father McKeon, he paid a visit to the Sacramento Food Bank.

“Father Madigan told me I was thinking way too small, so by the time I walked out of his office my mind was in a different universe,” Deacon Little said.

Soon representatives from community churches and civic leaders, headed by Deacon Little and John Healey, current director of Sacramento Emergency Food Bank Services, made the Covdova Food Locker a reality.

Three days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., volunteers distribute bags of food to roughly 5,000 people a month from a 60-foot trailer located adjacent to St. John Vianney’s parking lot.

Deacon Little said that the heart of the food locker ministry is the volunteers, what he calls “God’s gift to this world.”

One of them is St. John Vianney parishioner Ed Evans.

Evans, a former restaurant manager, now manages the Cordova Food Locker with a dedication that this friend Deacon Little finds remarkable.

“I believe Ed is an earthbound angel,” Deacon Little said. “I think the Holy Spirit put him and this program together because it is a perfect fit.”

Evans knows and personally greets every one of the volunteers from many local churches who show up like clockwork to sort, bag, and distribute food and conduct guest identification checks.

Among the 40 food locker volunteers from St. John Vianney is Chiyoko Caligurie, one of the original people to work in the social service ministry.

“These are all children of God,” said Caligurie, who also cooks lunch for the crew.

“Not everybody is as fortunate as I am.”

Among people assisted by the food locker is one of Caligurie’s neighbors.

“The husband had lost his job taking care of his wife who had lost her job because she was desperately sick,” Ron Caligurie said. “Once (the Cordova Food Locker) stepped forward and gave them some food, the neighborhood caught on and helped.”

Another volunteer, Fran Bian, said one of the things she enjoys most about working at the food locker is its ecumenical spirit.

“It brings people together,” said Bian, who began volunteering regularly following the death of her husband John, also a volunteer. “We all get along very well together and have the same goals helping the poor.”

In addition to parishioners providing volunteer support for the food locker, St. John Vianney School students and local Boy Scout troops lend a hand bagging groceries.

Primary food sources include California Emergency Foodlink, an organization that distributes food to food banks and closets statewide, as well as donations from civic organizations and individuals.

Deacon Little said that while the Cordova Community Food Locker’s long-range goal is “to put ourselves out of business,” the reality is that over the past five years, the need has just continued to grow.

“We see families, especially at the end of the month when the pay check runs out, sometimes when both parents have a job,” he said. “The truth is if you come you get food.”

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