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