PORT RICHEY — Thanks to the generosity of parishioners passionate about making a difference, St. James the Apostle Catholic Church finally has a stable building for its food pantry.

The church is associated with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and for 25 years volunteers have worked toward meeting the needs of the community. From the growing number of volunteers to the growing number of residents needing food assistance, the food pantry has moved around a bit. Now, the pantry sits on church grounds and is open three days a week, Monday, Thursday, and Friday, from 10 a.m. to noon.

“The Cannatas were getting older, and the husband had talked to his wife about doing something extra for St. Vincent de Paul because that was one of his passions,” said Mary Ellen Stelnicki, St. Vincent de Paul Society president for the St. James Church chapter.

And so a new project was born out of love, with Stelnicki and Jo Cannata working together with the church to build a 12-foot-by-30-foot shed to house food. Nick Cannata has since passed away, but the shed remains as a symbol of his passion to help others less fortunate than himself.

The church dedicated the shed on Dec. 1, and opened to the public on the first week of January. What Stelnicki is really hoping for in this New Year is for younger volunteers to answer the call. Many of the food pantry volunteers are in their 50s and 60s, with one volunteer at 95 years old.

“Our volunteers are outstanding workers, they really go a great job helping our community,” Stelnicki said.

The St. Vincent de Paul food pantry gets donations from parishioners and local agencies, such as Feeding Tampa Bay. Each week, the pantry provides meals to 85 students from Chasco and Fox Hollow elementary schools as part of the “Pack a Sack” program. Eligible children take home food that they can prepare themselves, such as fruit cups, applesauce, sausages, cereal, and canned goods. They also receive a jar of peanut butter to take home once a month. These children are specifically chosen from schools that identify families with low income.

The pantry is in need of canned goods, from spaghetti sauce to vegetables. Pop-top cans are appreciated, as not every person receiving food has a can opener — another needed item. Stelnicki added that any donation of canned items are welcome, though.

The organization goes beyond just feeding those in need. Monetary donations go toward helping families and individuals pay their bills.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. James the Apostle meets every first and third Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.