Charity issue: Helping one meal at a time


Tess Hubbard

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is located at 4335 Warne Ave in North St. Louis.

In the 1900s the building was just a shell. Years earlier, a fire destroyed the building from the inside out, leaving behind charred wood, concrete and exposed wires. Through the help of volunteers the building was transformed. Now, in 2021, the once burnt out building houses Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), is still run mostly by volunteers and through private donations.

OLPH is a food pantry located in North St. Louis and is staffed with a kitchen and industrial fridges, the pantry gets its donations from grocery stores and food drives. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the pantry hands out food from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Volunteers pass out bags of food packed with meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy to those in need.

Though most of their clients are from the neighborhood, they’ve helped provide food to people from as far as Illinois. The pantry never turns away anyone who needs help.

“They wanted to put a food pantry in one of the poorest areas of the city,” Ruth Baldwin, former North Kirkwood Middle School teacher and the daughter of Bill Patty, one of the people who helped lead the construction of the pantry, said. “They call it a food desert because there are no grocery stores around and people don’t have access to healthy food. The pantry helps give people access to that.”

But OLPH doesn’t just help provide food to those in need. The charity has also provided free computer classes, clothing and furniture donations, in the past. Now, OLPH provides utility assistance, which helps low income families with the costs of heating, cooling and other energy related experiences. They also provide a place for Narcotics Anonymous, an organization that helps those addicted to substances reach sobriety, to meet every Wednesday.

“We want to help the community in any way they need,” Pamela Dagestead, a volunteer at the food pantry, said. “I do whatever needs to be done.”

The food pantry was restored by volunteers such as Bill Patty, and others who were passionate about helping the cause.  (Photo provided by Ruth Baldwin)

OLPH is operated almost entirely by private donations and volunteers. This year Kirkwood’s cross country team reached out to help the charity and donated $820.

“The cross country team collected money that went towards a tree for Mrs. Baldwin’s father who sadly passed away,” Sunil Gangasingh, junior, said. “The rest of the money went to the charity.”

The charity doesn’t just rely on monetary donations but also donations of food goods from organizations and individuals. Volunteers help unload the donations, create the food bags and hand them out to the people.

“We get kids from a lot of schools here doing their volunteer hours,” Dagestead said. “We always need young help because most of us are getting old.”

Those who are interested in volunteer opportunities can reach out through the charity’s website to learn more. Just like they never turn away someone in need, OLPH will never turn away someone willing to help.

“A lot of us that live in Kirkwood are very fortunate,” Baldwin said. “People will spend four to five dollars on a latte, but when it comes to ‘can you donate to a fund for giving food to someone else,’ they don’t. Give up one latte, and you can make a difference.”