The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 14, 2000 Issue
Local News

Appleton woman diminishes hunger

Diocese honors founder of Valley Loaves and Fishes

First in a series

By Linda DeVries
Compass Correspondent

Honoring them

What: Green Bay Diocese's 12th annual Gaudium et Spes dinner.

Why: To honor this year's recipients of an award given to persons who try to live their faith in the world in the spirit of the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World.

Who: This year's honorees are Carol Burns of Green Bay, Fred and Cheryl Harasha of Wautoma and Viola Powless of Neopit.

When: Social at 5:30 p.m.; dinner at 6:30 p.m. May 5.

Where: Liberty Hall, Kimberly

Reservations: $12. Order by April 28, by calling (920)437-7531 or toll-free 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8234.

APPLETON - Many hungry and lonely folks in Appleton look forward to Mondays, when they will enjoy a good meal thanks to Gaudium et Spes award recipient Carol Burns and the volunteer staff of Loaves and Fishes. Burns helped start the free community meal program last year.

The seed for starting Loaves and Fishes in Appleton was planted back in 1993, when Burns and her family approached their pastor at St. Pius X Parish to ask if they could cook a Christmas dinner for needy people in the community.

"We were from out of state, so we didn't have family around to celebrate with," Burns recalled. "When we asked for volunteers from the church, 75 people got involved. We cooked on Christmas Eve, then served the meal on Christmas Day. Someone donated afghans to give people as gifts.

"We cooked a Christmas meal for two years, then in January of 1995, we offered to take one meal a month to the Emergency Shelter [of the Fox Valley]. Other people from our church got involved, and soon we were preparing meals twice a month. Now, thanks to other churches' involvement, every day is covered at the shelter," Burns said.

Still, Burns dreamed of making an evening meal available to anyone in the Valley who was hungry or lonely.

"How can you give God a hug?" Burns wondered. "How can you give Jesus a chocolate cake? I believe we do that by serving his people, by doing what Jesus did. We're all called in different ways, and I've found that when you're called to do something, God gifts you for it."

Last June, under Burns' leadership, the pilot program for Loaves and Fishes began. It was so successful, they decided to offer it for another six months, serving Monday night meals at St. Joseph Middle School starting in November.

Donations and volunteers have come from throughout the Valley, from the Community Foundation, St. Pius X Parish, Aid Association for Lutherans, the youth group of the Congregational Church, and students at Xavier High School, among others.

Beginning May 1, the Monday meals will move to Trinity Lutheran Church, 209 S. Allen St., Appleton.

"Loaves and Fishes is a community meal," Burns emphasized. "Everyone is invited - the poor, the hungry, and those who are just lonely. And anyone can volunteer. A couple men came as guests, and now they help serve. One young woman - a struggling single mom - brought us some food. It's the community taking care of the community, a real ecumenical effort.

"This is not just the work of one person by any means," said Burns. "Lots of people are involved. For example, Paul Salmon puts together the most amazing meals with the help of three or four cooks, while others volunteer to serve the meals. Groups of kids volunteer for service hours. One woman from our church has offered to do low-income counseling, and a retired gentleman is trying to help people find jobs."

Mary Bainbridge, who coordinates the volunteers for Loaves and Fishes, has assisted Burns with the program since late 1995.

"Carol's vision has been so tremendous!" Bainbridge said. "I know how much time and effort she's put in since its inception. When we were getting started, Carol traveled all over to find out what programs were available in surrounding communities and how they worked. She feels this is definitely a calling from God.

"Loaves and Fishes is more than feeding people with food; it feeds people's souls also," Bainbridge said. "It's wonderful to see how the people respond to one another. And we've been nourished just as much from the people we serve."

Fr. Donald Zuleger, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, nominated Burns for the award. He said, "I knew she would be an advocate for the poor even before she became instrumental in creating the Loaves and Fishes program. I saw firsthand the benefit to the community. She has a wonderful ability to bring people together and instill in them the vision of opening the eyes of people in the Fox Valley to those who are hungry. She has a wonderful sensitivity and energizes people in a nonthreatening way."

"Everything we do in Loaves and Fishes is for God's glory," Burns said. "I believe this is what God wants done. Every time I've been doubtful, someone calls to volunteer or to donate something. That affirms this outreach; it tells me that we're going in the right direction."

It's not as if Carol Burns had extra time on her hands. After working as a nurse for many years, she went on to study theology. This spring she will graduate with a master's degree in theological studies from St. Norbert College.

She also works as an admissions counselor for Marian College, representing the BSN completion program, the parish nurse program, and the college's adult accelerated program.

Carol and her husband, Michael, have been married 33 years and have three children. Their older son and his wife, who live in Appleton, recently had a baby; their daughter lives in Chicago; and their younger son studies music at Marian College.

"Carol is a woman of grace and humility," said Fr. Zulager, "an instrument of beatitude for those in need. She has a wonderful spirituality that encourages the beatitude of the gospel and the sum and spirit of the document Gaudium et Spies."

Helping out

Volunteers are always welcome to help prepare and serve the meals each Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 209 S. Allen St., Appleton. Cooking hours are 3 to 5 p.m.; serving hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. People interested in volunteering (even one-time volunteers are welcome) or donating food may contact Carol Burns at 735-9138.

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