Littleton Pantry Gives A Small Town Hope
Just about five miles past Hundred lies the very small town of Littleton. If you blink, you might miss it. The town used to bustle with activity, an effect of the oil boom. The population was near 1,000. This was the early 1900s though. In 1906, a fire practically destroyed the town.
Since then, it appears the population has steadily decreased. According to a 2010 census, the population stood at just about 200 folks.
Time has not been kind to Littleton.
Perhaps the most recent headline citing the town related to the triple homicide that occurred in January 2014.
Today’s story and headline is not a negative one however. There is hope in Littleton, a beacon in the form of some kind, hard-working neighbors at the local food pantry.
The pantry itself is rich with history – a rectory located beside of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church. The church’s existance is attributed largely to the the building of tunnels for the B&O railroad. Whenever a tunnel was built, a church was built by the Irish workers.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church closed its doors more than two decades ago, yet the volunteers of the pantry have continued their work throughout the years.
On Oct. 13, volunteers – of the past and present – gathered at the rectory to discuss the pantry’s work. It was also a working day for the volunteers, as a truckload of food was expected that day, which would be distributed the next Tuesday – on Oct. 18.
Elsie Doshen is the director of the food pantry, but she is quick to credit her fellow volunteers for their hard work with the food pantry. Doshen took over as director after Mike and Julie Billie recently stepped down. It was noted that Mike recently turned 70 and has worked with the food bank for years.
John Lavelle recalls working with the food pantry while a member of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church. Lavelle said he began attending the church in 1925 and was baptized in 1926. He estimates that the food pantry began in the late-1990s.
The volunteers note that John, his wife Audrey, and his later mother Lena donated the church’s altar in memory of John’s late father, Pat. After the church closed, the altar was taken to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, in Farmington.
John recalls that 18 people were served, per month, by the food pantry when it first started.
Father Frank Neville was the priest when the pantry first started, and Russ and Joanne Reid became the first directors under the guidance of Father Frank Neville, who saw a great need in the area for feeding many.
Currently, the pantry serves 50 families, 140 people. Doshen noted that this distribution number will increase in November due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Mountaineer Food Bank supplies the food, courtesy of the USDA’s Feeding America program.
Brother Robert Wheeler lives 2.5 hours away but still commutes to Littleton to help with the food pantry.
Brother Robert notes that he was first acquainted with the food pantry in the mid-90s when he came to Littleton and lived with a group of hermits. He said he decided to then get involved with the pantry.
“It is so needy here,” he noted of his desire to help and to keep helping, adding that Littleton is known as one of the poorest communities in the state.
Arthur Tedrow lives in Littleton. He is not associated with any of the local Catholic churches but still volunteers at the food pantry, noting that the area is “his home.” Tedrow said he puts clients of the pantry in his prayers.
It was noted to the volunteers that sometimes charity is criticized in that outsiders sometimes doubt whether those who partake in charity are truly in need. Tedrow was asked how he deals with any such criticism.
“Compassion comes first,” Robert and Tedrow agreed. Their philosophy is to simply pray and give the clients a smile, as it is sometimes needed.
Tedrow explained that some clients have confided in him, or even offered money for the food. “My heart would go out to them,” he said.
Father Vincy Sebastian Illickal presides over St. Patrick Catholic Church and St. Peter Catholic Church. Father Vincy is credited with helping to keep the pantry running, as its future was in jeopardy after the Billies stepped down.
Father Vincy is a quiet and humble man and does not easily accept the credit given to him. However, the fact that the busy reverend is at the food pantry supporting his volunteers speaks volumes in itself. Father Vincy had noted that he had called for volunteers after being alerted to the fact that the pantry was in trouble.
Other volunteers credited for helping with the pantry are Matthew and Jeanette Crouser, Dave Miller and John Latocha, Jennifer and Terry Jobes, George Tippner, Don and Vickie Wells, Danny Burge, and ladies and men from St. Patrick and St. Peter parishes. The volunteers present on Oct. 13 are careful not to miss a name of a fellow volunteer.
Don and Vickie Wells happened to be present that day, along with some of the previously mentioned. However, many spent most of this day’s visit helping stock the pantry – rightfully so, as it was a busy delivery day.
Yet, Vickie did make one comment, perhaps summing up the volunteers’ sentiments best:
“We are here to do the Lord’s work,” she said, as Brother Robert followed with applause.