Vicariate-wide Agape Center serves all in north Macomb area

Bonnie Wolfbauer and Hank Sienkiewicz help unpack and sort food donations at the Agape Center in Romeo, a collaborative food pantry and social service outreach center run by the nine parishes of the North Macomb Vicariate.

Collaborative food pantry a model of inter-parish Christian outreach

ROMEO — What’s for dinner tonight? Tomorrow? Next week?

Whether it’s a senior citizen living on a limited income, a single mother who just lost her job, or a family living on the margins who hit a string of bad luck, such a question can be difficult to answer.

For those living in northern Macomb County, the Agape Center in Romeo is a go-to resource for families who need help putting food on the table.

A collaborative effort of the nine parishes in the North Macomb Vicariate, the Agape Center (agape is Greek for “love,” specifically the love of God) opened in 2012 on the grounds of St. Clement of Rome Parish, but the center serves a vicariate-wide purpose.

“We mainly operate as an emergency food pantry, serving anyone in the boundaries of the North Macomb Vicariate churches,” said Kathy Mollon, coordinator of volunteers and programs at the Agape Center. “We partner with the nine parishes, who have clients who come to them in need of financial assistance for food or help with utilities.”

Mollon works with the St. Vincent de Paul conferences of the parishes that have them. After filling out paperwork showing they have a need, clients visit the Agape Center during pantry hours and are set up with food for the month.

“We work to give them a well-rounded collection of items, including vegetables, fruit, meat and stuff to bake with, along with cleaning products and paper products,” Mollon said.

Clients also can elect to receive food from Forgotten Harvest, a local food program, which comes every week with food from local restaurants and markets.

For 12 years, Mollon was a Christian service coordinator at SS. John and Paul Parish in Washington Township, where she served on the board for the Agape Center. After quitting that job to travel with her husband, she returned looking to volunteer.

“I love the outreach we’re doing here,” Mollon said.

Combining the resources of nine parishes into a centralized food pantry allows the North Macomb Vicariate to be more flexible when it comes to coordinating assistance, Mollon said.

“As far as I’m aware, this is the only pantry where all the churches in a vicariate are gathered together,” she said. “This is just as much our panty here at St. Clement’s as it is St. Lawrence’s in Utica, or St. Rose’s in Armada or St. John Vianney’s in Shelby Township; we want them all to realize this is their pantry.”

From January to June 2018, the Agape Center assisted 2,238 individuals in 722 families, with $25,659.50 in-kind donations. The center operates with the help of 640 volunteers who have logged 2,467 hours of service in the first half of the year.

Hank Sienkiewicz of St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township started volunteering at the Agape Center after seeing an ad in the parish bulletin.

“I help fill orders for people who need groceries and stock the shelves and do a little cleanup,” Sienkiewicz said. “The people here are great to work with. With what God has given to me, I can give some of my talents, which are minimal, to provide help to people not quite as lucky as I am.”

Bonnie Wolfbauer has been volunteering at the Agape Center for five years, usually helping file orders and requests for assistance.

“Most the people here are single mothers whose husbands walked out on them, left them with three or four kids, and some are senior citizens who can’t make all their bills and need help with food,” Wolfbauer said. “The Agape Center allows us a chance to pick out our own days to volunteer and give back. It feels great to give back, knowing you can help people when they are down, because you know they’ll help you when you need it.”

Agape Center

The Agape Center, 347 S. Main St., Romeo, is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and Thursday evenings from 5:30-7 p.m. Contact Kathy Mollon at (586) 336-6842 for food assistance or volunteer information.