St. Francis

St. Francis ministry dedicates new building

By John Newton
Assistant Managing Editor

Alice Tamol always keeps a stack of letters on the right side of her desk.

They come from several individuals St. Francis Outreach ministry has impacted through food and clothing donations and other support.

Alice, who directs the ministry with her husband, Al, cannot help but smile as she reads them.

“These are just some of the letters I’ve dug up,” she said, pointing to the stack on her desk. “There are a lot of letters. Most of them I’ve thrown out, but there are a few that I’ve kept.”

Letters and notes come pouring in from various individuals the ministry has aided over the 19 years it has served Grapevine and surrounding areas, thanking St. Francis Outreach for helping them.

“We just got one, right there on the bulletin board, and she… was so happy that we gave her vouchers for food that she dropped a piece of frozen meat and crushed her toes!” Mrs. Tamol said with a smile. “Anyway, she was so grateful that we helped her out with the food and vouchers so that they can buy perishables. We do that for everyone.”

Mrs. Tamol said individuals and families of those individuals have a variety of different backgrounds and needs when they come to St. Francis Outreach for help. Some are recovering drug addicts, some are unemployed, and some are facing a variety of physical concerns.

And St. Francis Outreach has grown to meet as many of those needs as possible. Starting only with a few donations and good intentions in 1983, St. Francis Outreach out-grew its old building, located north of the main St. Francis Catholic Church building.

So, at the urging of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church pastor the Rev. Ken Robinson, the parishioners decided to build the ministry a new building alongside two other new church buildings.

Last Wednesday, the new facility of St. Francis Outreach ministry was dedicated, with city, chamber of commerce and church officials gathering to celebrate the building’s official opening.

“Members of the chamber [of commerce] came and the city ambassadors, and the key to the city was presented to Alice and Al [Tamol] and then they had their big scissors and their ribbon and everything,” said Grace Messina, an Outreach volunteer and coordinator of the ceremony.

The old facility the ministry was using was built about 50 years ago, and was once a part of the original church complex. It had one interview room, a small food pantry and very little office space.

The new building has two interview rooms, a spacious pantry, a kitchen, an office, a garage for storage and a spacious store. There is a phone network, two fitting rooms and a back door for needy individuals who wish to stay out of public view.

And, for the first time in 19 years, the ministry has replaced Mrs. Tamol’s old cigar box money holder with a cash register to ring up store sales.

“When we got this register, we were all dumbfounded by it,” Mrs. Tamol said with a laugh. “I had a little cigar box and a little tray we used to put the change in, and we got along great – never made mistakes. Now we have this [register] and the first day we made 17 mistakes! But we’re getting better.”

She said the new building is really nice and allows the ministry to operate smoother, though its new floor layout and location may take some time for patrons to get used to.

“It’s just a lovely, first-class little building,” Mrs. Messina said.

St. Francis Outreach grew out of the Saint Vincent de Paul ministry – a charitable ministry outgrowth of the Catholic Church – about 19 years ago. The Rev. Baltazar Szarka (Father “B”), pastor of St. Francis Catholic Church at the time, was an integral part of getting the local ministry started, Mrs. Messina said.

The Tamols have directed the ministry since it started and have dedicated a lot of their time to helping organize and run it.

“Alice and Al have just been remarkable,” Mrs. Messina said. “They spend hours doing this.”

The Tamols collect coupons and buy food at various grocery stores for the ministry’s food pantry. Mrs. Tamol keeps an inventory of grocery needs and lets the church’s parishioners know each month what needs to be replenished.

St. Francis Outreach helps individuals in a variety of ways. For example, it offers food vouchers at area grocery stores, has a food pantry, and offers donated items, such as household goods and clothing, at an extremely reduced price.

Church parishioners and businesses in the community donate most of what the ministry has. And St. Francis Outreach is always open to more donations.

After all, the more resources, the more help is available for people in need.

“You’ve got to like it – we love it,” Mrs. Tamol said. “It’s not like a job. It’s like a salvation, really.”

______________________________

Assistant Managing Editor John Newton can be reached at 817-488-8561 or jnewton@grapevinesun.com

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