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July 27 - August 9, 2014

Feeding the poor for 20 years, one sandwich at a time

By Joyce Duriga


Barbara Cavalenes, Dave Mueller and Diane Rabicke prepare sandwiches at St. Zachary Parish in DesPlaines on July 11. The sandwiches were distributed through Port Ministries the next day to feed the hungry. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Paul Mika unwraps cheese on July 11. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Jack Cavalenes packs the sandwiches into boxes ready to be delivered to Port Ministries. The group makes about 300 sandwiches twice a month. They've been doing this for 20 years. (Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

Twice a month for the past 20 years, the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Zachary Parish in Des Plaines has made sandwiches for the hungry and homeless. Why? “Because you have to feed the homeless,” said Dave Mueller, the society’s treasurer and the designated shopper for sandwich preparation nights. Mueller has been part of the sandwich making since the beginning. No one is sure exactly how it started.

“Someone wanted it and we started it,” he said.

Each sandwich comes with packets of mustard and mayonnaise and a juice box.

The 300 sandwiches are prepared Friday nights and then society member Paul Mika drives them down to the Port Ministries on the South Side. The Port Ministries distributes food everyday through its Bread Truck.

It takes the St. Zachary crew of about six people — any more than that and “we get in each other’s way,” said Diane Rabicke — about 45 minutes to make the sandwiches.

St. Zachary’s group doesn’t just help the Port Ministries. They also make sandwiches for the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph homeless shelter once a month. And each day someone goes around to area bakeries — and once a week to a Pizza Hut — to collect leftover food that is distributed to places like Reba House in Evanston.

Because they collect so much food and so often, the society purchased its own van to pick up and drop off food.

There are about 25 members of St. Zachary’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and most of their funds come from the parish “poor box.”