Corpus Christi celebrates 20th anniversary

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Bishop Francis Christian leads a prayer service to bless the new location of the Corpus Christi food pantry Sunday. Parishioners and visitors gathered at the pantry following a service at the neighboring Infant Jesus Church.

NASHUA – Helen Dumont, who started a tiny food-collection drive for needy folks at St. Joseph the Worker Church nearly 20 years ago, wore a huge smile Sunday afternoon as she watched Bishop Francis Christian bless the newest incarnation of what came to be known as the Corpus Christi Food Pantry.

“From nothing … to this, thanks to all the volunteers,” Dumont said, gesturing toward several people standing in her vicinity in the lower level of a former sisters’ residence associated with the adjacent Infant Jesus Church.

Dumont was among an estimated 75 people who gathered for the blessing of Corpus Christi’s newest home at 3 Crown St., a space described as “slightly larger” but also better configured for accessibility of visitors.

Although the pantry moved to Crown Street in January from its former home at St. Stanislaus Church on Franklin Street, staff and volunteers wanted to allow plenty of time to get settled before hosting a grand opening service and giving tours.

“If you are involved in any way in supporting this mission, know that you are the work of the Gospel,” Bishop Christian said during the blessing.

“And let us continue, as best as we can, to help those in need.”

Dumont, meanwhile, was quick to deflect credit for the early growth of the food pantry.

“I had great priests who supported me, and a lot of wonderful kids in the youth ministry,” she said. Many of those kids, Dumont added, gladly jumped into volunteers’ vehicles to help them deliver food and other necessities to folks who needed them.

Early on, a group of volunteers put on “a big holiday program,” Dumont said. “That kind of cemented the whole thing,” she added, referring to the food pantry growing permanent roots.

“It just mushroomed after that.”

Board member Diana Lavash called Corpus Christi’s January move to Crown Street “a win-win for both our pantry and the St. Stanislaus parish,” in that the church gained much-needed space while Corpus Christi can continue its mission in a location that’s easily accessible to visitors and clients.

Upon its mid-January move to Crown Street, the agency hosted an “opening party,” geared toward acquainting its staff and volunteers with its new headquarters.

Transition went smoothly, agency leaders said at the time. They had made it a priority to reopen as quickly as possible “so we don’t miss any more time” than necessary, Kay Golden, director of the agency’s assistance program, said in January.

On Sunday, meanwhile, Dumont said it’s the act of helping others that keeps her connected to the food pantry.

“You know, I get a lot more out of it than they do,” she said, again flashing a big smile.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.