The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 23, 2001 Issue

Well done

Leo Frigo served the community well and provided an example for us to follow

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By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

The death last week of Leo Frigo - the founder and guiding force behind Paul's Pantry in Green Bay - took a humanitarian Christian giant from our community.

Though it is believed to be the nation's largest food pantry - 5 million pounds last year - Paul's Pantry did more than give physical food. Leo believed in the dignity of people and work and gave people a chance to earn their meals. While it wasn't a requirement, volunteer helpers at Paul's Pantry - where the day always started with a short prayer - were given an extra food allowance. Last year, 68,000 of the pantry's 91,000 hours of volunteer labor were provided by persons who received aid.

Paul's Pantry followed the Gospel example of the Loaves and Fishes by securing donations of canned goods and dried foods that added together fed persons in need. Leo also worked in a new twist with the part of the story where leftovers were gathered into baskets. He arranged with grocery stores and restaurants - yes, even the luxury boxes at Lambeau Field - to let him have the food they would normally throw away. To make things easier, Paul's Pantry sent trucks as far as Milwaukee to pick up these food donations.

Though humble and unassuming, Leo was proud of what Paul's Pantry does and he loved to take reporters on tour. Leo - wearing coveralls, Sorel boots, maybe a hard hat - would go through the pantry, admiring the donated food. "This is really good stuff," he'd say. Often, he'd stop and ask the people waiting in line how they were doing and if everything was OK. There was never a note of superiority. It was more like the owner of an exclusive business making sure his elite clientele was well served. More than that, he showed the concern of a committed Christian acting like Jesus.

As much as Leo liked gifts of food and money, he was delighted with donations that might seem insignificant - egg cartons and plastic and paper bags. "Thank you," he would say. "We go through so many of these every day. Do you know what they cost?"

And Leo was just as apt to ask a journalist about the possibility of delivering a box of food to a homebound person. "While you're there," Leo would say, "look around and make sure everything is OK. See if they have heat and lights or if anything looks wrong. Ask if they'd like someone else to stop by. If they need anything, let me know." That's how Leo was.

His death has brought many tributes. But the one that would delight Leo most is for us all to go and do likewise. That's how Leo was.

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