When Alexis Williams became a Dominican associate candidate, her world view was already aligned with the values of justice and peace promoted by the Dominicans of Springfield. Understanding the moral imperative to be generous with the blessings she had received, Alexis responded to an announcement at her parish, St Irenaeus, Park Forest, Ill., about the new food pantry being established in the former school building.
When Alexis started as a volunteer at the pantry in 2012, her talents for organization, leadership, and compassion were quickly discovered. Then-director Colette Wisnewski asked her to help coordinate the frozen and refrigerated foods section. In this capacity, Alexis helps to receive and arrange fresh and frozen items from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, makes decisions about distribution, and interacts with clients at the St. Irenaeus Catholic Charities Client Choice Food Pantry.
“I find ministry in the food pantry to be spiritually uplifting and I’m grateful to be called to serve."
“The need is greater now than ever before,” Alexis says. More residents of Chicago’s Southland need food because of illness, loss of jobs, physical and mental disabilities, or low-wage employment. Elderly clients on Social Security frequently find their benefits absorbed by rent, utilities, and healthcare expenses. Without assistance from the pantry, they would go hungry.
“I am blessed to be able to help provide for those in need,” Alexis reflects. “I find ministry in the food pantry to be spiritually uplifting and I’m grateful to be called to serve. The clients are always appreciative of the many blessings that come from this pantry.”
Some volunteers are former clients themselves. Vanessa Hood, one such volunteer, accepted the challenge of sharing the blessing she received. Months earlier, Vanessa had her work schedule cut from 28 to 16 hours and could not feed her four children. She heard about the St. Irenaeus Food Pantry and requested emergency assistance. When she walked out of the pantry that day, her grocery cart full of food for her children, she said, “This is God’s work.” Now employed full time, Vanessa comes each Monday to help with food distribution for, as she and Alexis both say, “God is good.”
Alexis made her formal commitment as a Dominican associate with the 2017 class. Her work in the food pantry is one inspiring example of how each act of justice and every effort for peace can impact an ever-widening circle of compassion. Thank you, Alexis, for your gospel witness.
This article originally appeared in JUST Words, Volume 17, NO. 3. Learn more about becoming a Springfield Dominican Associate.
Sister Judine Hilbing, OP, is director of scholarships, Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, Ill.; food pantry director at the St. Irenaeus/Catholic Charities Food Pantry, Park Forest, Ill.; and a member of the JUST Words editorial board.