She has the giving spirit all year

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | December 10, 2014

Van Grinsven runs parish food pantry with help from her family

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]LITTLE CHUTE — This is the season of giving and the time of the year when many people step forward to help those less fortunate than themselves. It’s a busy time for food pantries as they do their best to provide food and bring some cheer to those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Joan Van Grinsven (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Joan Van Grinsven (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute has a food pantry and they provide food and household goods for about 60 families each month. Joan Van Grinsven, who works as an oncology nurse at Fox Valley Hematology in Oshkosh, runs the pantry with help from her family.

Coordinating all the donations, volunteers and food pick-ups can be a lot of work but fortunately for Van Grinsven she has time in her schedule, as she only works at the clinic three days a week. She and her husband, Jeff, live across the street from the church in the house she grew up in.

The food pantry has been in existence at St. John since 1984. “They used to give out food on the back step to 12 families. That’s how it all started,” said Van Grinsven. “I stood in that line for a family member two times and it was very humbling. I think that’s when I got called to help” three years ago.

When Van Grinsven, who is one of seven children in the Biesterveld family, was asked to take over the pantry, she said she was excited but knew it was going to be a big job and didn’t want to do it by herself.

“I thought this would be an awesome project for our family — meaning my brothers and sisters. My grandparents were very involved in St. John’s. My grandma started the mission club; my grandfather was a custodian at St. John High School, so they were always very involved. I wanted to carry on the tradition of the Biesterveld family.”

First, Van Grinsven got her husband involved, then her brothers and sisters and her four children. “My nieces and nephews help when they can on food drives. They need confirmation or service hours so they help. Everybody does just a little bit. I have one who picks up bakery. It’s a neat family thing.”

The pantry is open on the third Monday of each month. Low-income residents of Little Chute and St. John parishioners are eligible to be a part of the program. “We rely on monetary donations from our parishioners and this time of year they are very generous. We rely on food donations. We have baskets at every church entrance all year long.”

A new project is the Stocking the Shelves program through the Post-Crescent. “They donate money to Feeding America in Omro and you can go shop there,” she said. “We try to go monthly — my husband does that.”

When clients arrive they are given a cartful of groceries that has been packed up ahead of time, based on the size of their family. “I have about 10 or 12 volunteers that come and we start at 8:00 in the morning. The clients come from 10 to 11:30 or they can come between 5 and 6 at night,” said Van Grinsven.

She said her parish’s theme is evangelization. “So I always give them a church bulletin. They know all this is donated from the church. I try to invite them if something is coming up.”

For fresh items, such as milk, eggs, meat and produce, the clients are given vouchers for Save-A-Lot or Piggly Wiggly in Little Chute. Every month Van Grinsven spends between $900 and $1,200 for the vouchers and purchasing items in bigger demand, such as cereal, or things that rarely get donated such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

Van Grinsven was recently certified at Concordia University to be the St. John parish nurse. “It was a longtime dream of mine to do this for our parish. The timing in my life was right.” She is also in charge of the newly formed Wellness Committee at their church. Their first initiative is blood pressure screenings, which are being done the first Saturday of each month after 8 a.m. Mass.

The other major volunteer effort for Van Grinsven is being on the team that puts together the Women Celebrate weekend every year. The weekend is Catholic-based for women 18 and older but all denominations are welcome. The 14th annual Women Celebrate weekend will be held Feb. 13-15, 2015, at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake.

While Van Grinsven admitted she does a lot of giving, she recalled reading a quote years ago that said, “Shame on the person who is ever bored.” That has been her inspiration. “There is so much work to do for Jesus out there. I receive so much from all the giving I’m involved in. It just feels right. In giving we receive.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Joan Van Grinsven

Parish: St. John Nepomucene, Little Chute

Age: 51

Favorite saint: Therese of Lisieux

Words to live by: “We should live J.O.Y. — Jesus first, then others, then yourself.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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