Bible study group launches 3rd annual Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Fund

By Jean Peerenboom | For The Compass | November 13, 2014

Fox Valley Bible Study will collect items to assist needy residents

APPLETON — Annual food drives are not new to the Fox Valley Bible Study Group, but this year there’s a new twist. So, when people consider donations, they might look in their closets as well as their pantries or wallets.

Tom Schiltz distributes collection bags for the Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Fund to Karen Jahner at Sacred Heart Church in Appleton Nov. 10. Schiltz is the founder, along with the late Deacon Jim Asmuth, of the Thanksgiving collection and longtime member of the Fox Valley Bible Study Group. (Kathy Weigman | For The Compass)
Tom Schiltz distributes collection bags for the Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Fund to Karen Jahner at Sacred Heart Church in Appleton Nov. 10. Schiltz is the founder, along with the late Deacon Jim Asmuth, of the Thanksgiving collection and longtime member of the Fox Valley Bible Study Group. (Kathy Weigman | For The Compass)

The third annual Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Fund will be held Nov. 22 and 23. In the past, items were collected only for St. Joseph’s Food Pantry. This year, in addition to the pantry, items also will be distributed to COTS, LEAVEN, the Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Loaves and Fishes meal program and the Community Clothes Closet.

Jim Hyde, project coordinator, said the collection has grown so much over the past years that he believes there will be enough to stock other pantry shelves and help more Fox Valley organizations that aid people in need.

The Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Fund is a project of the Fox Valley Bible Study Group, which started about 36 years ago. The group of nearly 170 people meets Friday mornings for Scripture study with Fr. Don Zueleger at St. Bernadette Church.

Hyde said the group challenges itself to live out the Scriptures. The social justice work comes out of Matthew 25: “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink; a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me.”

This year, the group is taking that passage very seriously. The drive, which encompasses many Christian churches in the Valley, will collect nonperishable foods, new and used clothing, financial donations and even some household items such as laundry or dish soap or personal toiletries. COTS, for example, provides transitional housing so people are maintaining apartments.

Participating are 20 Catholic parishes in Appleton, Kimberly, Kaukauna, Darboy, Neenah, Menasha, Greenville and Combined Locks. Joining them are the two Episcopal churches in Appleton and Menasha, six evangelical Christian churches, and 20 Lutheran churches throughout the Fox Valley.

Bags for food items will be distributed at the churches before the drive. “The Sunday after Thanksgiving,” Hyde said, “the agencies receiving items have been invited to set up tables so people can meet them and learn more about them.”

“This is something we do every year,” he said. He is pleased with the success of the projects spearheaded by the Bible study group. “When Bishop (David) Ricken first came here, he toured all these facilities. The publicity that drew helped us raise $140,000 that year.”

The group has worked to grow the project. “The people who really deserve the credit are all the volunteers who help these agencies. They are the heart and soul of our organizations,” he said. “The food program alone has about 500 volunteers. There are thousands if you look at all these agencies.”

“I took a calculator and figured out that if we had to pay for these services (that volunteers provide), we’d be spending about $11 billion,” he said.

Hyde also complimented other organizations that hold food drives. “This is not just a weekend thing once a year,” he said. “People are hungry all year long.”

While the food drives focus on nonperishable items, Hyde said there is an effort to get fresh food, produce and meat for the meal programs as well.

“I drove through Keil one day (and) saw a sign on the cheese factory there. It had a big Irish flag on it. I sent a letter in my best Gaelic,” he said. “I think the owner was impressed. He donated a ton of cheese to us.”

Food chains also donate, added Hyde. “We distribute 2.5 million pounds of food a year from the St. Joseph Food program. We have a budget of close to $1 million, which lets us also purchase meat and milk over and above the donations.”

Schools also hold food drives for the pantry. For example, last year, he said, Xavier High School gave 601 pounds of food.

Suggested food items for the November drive include canned meats, stews, fruit or tuna, cereal, condiments, boxed dinner mixes, peanut butter, pork and beans, dried beans, rice and pasta.

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