Connections that serve

With+a+team+of+over+100+individuals%2C+Caritas+Connections+is+100%25+volunteer+operated.

Samantha Roth

With a team of over 100 individuals, Caritas Connections is 100% volunteer operated.

An elderly man stumbles through the front door of Father Dempsey’s Charity House, desperate for a shower and shave. An expecting mother sobs in the office of St. Louis Crisis Nursery while receiving news of free prenatal care for her baby boy. A middle-aged man — incarcerated since young adulthood and recently released from jail — throws on a suit jacket gifted by the Federal Probation Office, ready for his first job interview. Each of these individuals, while all having different backstories, have one thing in common: Caritas Connections.  

“The idea of [Caritas Connections] started [in 1976] with Father Tom Bryon picking up day-old bread and delivering it to [food pantries],” Gina Bauman, Caritas Connections president of the board of directors, said. “We serve as a pass-through for donated items.”

Created 44 years ago by Father Bryon and his father, Caritas now has over 100 volunteers and works closely with 30 public help centers.

Their main office is located on St. Gerard Majella’s campus, allowing the charity to work closely with the parish. Each Monday and Thursday, volunteers organize donations by destination, with drivers delivering to charities Tuesday and Friday mornings.  

We [focus] on the necessities that [the needy] cannot purchase with food stamps.”

— Gina Buaman

“Caritas does not deal with the needy directly, [as] we work with agencies that work with the public,” Bauman said. “We [focus] on the necessities that [the needy] cannot purchase with food stamps.”

This collaborative role allows for more food to be donated. One such location is Schnucks, where volunteers from Caritas pick up food five days a week. As Caritas has grown, their monetary donations have too. These donations have allowed them to provide new services, such as personal shoppers. Caritas Connections asks charities what they need and personal shoppers buy those exact items, filling each specific need a charity has. 

One organization this program benefits is the Robinson Elementary Food Pantry. The Robinson Food Pantry, looking for a refrigerator and freezer to store food for the students they assist, communicated with Caritas, who then purchased the appliances in 2017.

“Normally we do not buy appliances,” Mary Kempa, Caritas board member and donations organizer, said. “However, [a community member] saw the need and we were able to fill this need. Currently, two personal shoppers help [fill the shelves] at Robinson Pantry.”

This relationship between the two organizations has grown into a $1,000 monthly purchase of food by Caritas for KSD students with high-quality food. According to Kempa, the service each volunteer provides allows for individuals to live the word of Jesus. 

“Our goal for meeting clients’ needs is equal to finding meaningful ministry for our volunteers,” Kempa said. “All volunteer work is good, and here we can directly serve our neighbors in need.”

All volunteer work is good, and here we can directly serve our neighbors in need.”

— Mary Kempa

As Caritas is a faith-based organization, they aim to follow the path of Jesus, according to Bauman. Their mission statement pledges to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked and help the sick, suffering and homeless.” With connections across the St. Louis area and assisting individuals and families in all stages of life, Caritas provides opportunities and aid to people who would otherwise be without life’s daily necessities. 

“[Caritas] helps people in need as well as [providing] volunteers a chance to live the gospel,” Bauman said. “From our founder Father Bryon to all the current volunteers, [Caritas] allows us to walk the walk and live the gospel.”

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How to Donate:

If interested in volunteering, visit https://www.caritasconnections.com/Volunteer

For information regarding how to donate, visit https://www.caritasconnections.com/Donate

All questions can also be directed to (314) 225-2605 or [email protected]