Once a One-Man Mission, Barn for the Poor Now Feeds Thousands

first_imgSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Keansburg feeds 120 to 130 people each week, Gerry Duffy said. “Many of them can’t do much for themselves. These people really need the food.” As it says in the New Testament, faith can move mountains. Similar little miracles continued to happen. Although it is a spiritually grounded mission, the Barn gives and receives support from many churches and other organizations that serve the poor. It was the first of many visits he would pay to the South Bronx convent and he never arrived empty-handed. Now the Barn has more than 150 volunteers. Nearly every day of the week volunteers collect, sort and package donated products for delivery to 44 locations in New Jersey and New York. Together the volunteers collect and distribute some 8 tons of surplus food each year. There are no paid employees. “It’s not just Catholic,” Gerry Duffy stressed. “We support the Methodists, Presbyterians, Long Branch Schools, Lunch Break, St. Anthony’s, St. Mark’s Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army.” Tucked away in a corner of a parking lot on Kanes Lane in Middletown, the Barn is actually a warehouse where a well-organized army of volunteers sort and pack surplus food they have collected from area supermarkets, farms and bakeries for daily delivery to food pantries, homeless shelters, religious institutions and other charities that serve the poor. Founded in 1981 by Barney Welch, who was then a caretaker for the Haskell estate in Middletown, the goal of the Barn is as simple as it gets: Feed the hungry. It can also move mountains of food. Rather than consigning it to the dumpster, several local markets began setting aside usable food for Welch to pick up. Meanwhile, other charitable organizations serving the poor heard about what he was doing for the Missionary sisters and asked him for help. With the need expanding, Welch began looking for a few like-minded volunteers. When he offered them the fish, the sister who answered the door responded, “Thank God you’re here. We’ve been praying for food all day.” By Eileen Moon Today, after more than three decades of volunteering for the Barn, Gerald Duffy, a retired accountant, is now the executive director of the organization, a role he accepted after Welch’s death in 2010.center_img Welch strongly believed in the concept of “Divine Providence,” the Duffys said. He had a favorite saying he credited to Mother Teresa that he liked to use to explain his philosophy: “If you are worrying, stop praying. If you are praying, stop worrying.” Through their involvement with the Barn, they were introduced to Mother Teresa during one of her visits to the convent in the South Bronx. When the nun learned that Karin Duffy was a convert to Catholicism, she presented her with a set of rosary beads and gave her a blessing. In 1987, Karin Duffy saw a notice about the Barn in her church bulletin, St. Mary’s in New Monmouth. It proved to be a life-altering step for each of them. He began salvaging discarded but still edible food from grocery store dumpsters, a practice that supermarket managers were understandably less than happy about. One day, while rummaging in a dumpster, Welch was approached by a man who asked what he was doing. When he explained, the man identified himself as a salesman for Arnold’s Bakery in Lakewood. Soon, Welch was receiving regular donations of baked goods from Arnold’s. “People are in it for the right reasons,” said Gerry Duffy. “Just to give time and service.” And in 2016, when Mother Teresa was elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, the Duffys were invited to Rome for her canonization. Feeling uncomfortable about going alone, Karin asked her husband to come along. Recently a local Girl Scout troop approached the Barn with the idea of planting a vegetable garden to provide fresh produce for the Barn. Just ask Gerald and Karin Duffy, veteran volunteers at the Barn for the Poorest of the Poor, a quietly powerful nonprofit organization that has been delivering food to people in need since 1987. When Karin inquired, she was invited to visit Welch in his living quarters above the barn. The garden they planted behind the warehouse will be dedicated Sunday, July 14 during a celebration scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. At the time, Welch had a small side business selling fish that his brother-in-law caught to buyers in New York City. One day, when he’d finished his work, Welch decided to stop by the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order established by Mother Teresa that a niece of his had joined. He had some fish remaining from the day’s sales and thought he’d see if they would like it. To donate or inquire about volunteering at the Barn, call 732-671-4163 or email [email protected] Learn more about the organization online at barnforthepoor.org.last_img

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