Local Ministries

New set of wheels is waiting for you!

Tom Tritsch stands inside the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Resource Bus. For the past five years, Tritsch has driven the bus two times a month, sometimes three, to rural communities to distribute boxes and bags of food and sometimes other things to people who really need the help. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — What does hope look like? Sometimes it looks like a bag of food handed over by Tom Tritsch.

Volunteers like Tritsch are ambassadors of hope. There is a need for more of them.

For the past five years, Tritsch has driven the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Resource Bus twice a month, sometimes thrice, to rural communities to distribute boxes and bags of food and sometimes other things to people who really need the help.

A little bit can make a big difference.

“Most of the time, they’re very appreciative of what we do for them,” said Tritsch. “It doesn’t really matter how much we do for them. They’re glad to have whatever assistance we offer.

“We can’t tide them over for an entire six-week period until the bus comes back, but we can help them through the rough spots, like when they’re waiting on a check to come.”

Tom Tritsch organizes bags of food and other items outside the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Resource Bus. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

There are seven Catholic Charities Family Support Centers in the most populous of the 21 counties of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, said Andy Lucas, program support specialist for the Resource Bus.

 Because not everyone can go to these brick-and-mortar sites, the Resource Bus program was begun in 2017 to serve those in rural areas. Currently, the Resource Bus visits 14 sites serving 15 counties. The bus’s home base is the Hope Distribution Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

“The bus goes out twice a week to counties north of Interstate 70 on Tuesdays, and to southern counties on Wednesdays,” said Lucas. “Primarily, it’s a mobile food pantry, but it also provides hygiene kits, diapers and wipes for infants, and seasonal items like school backpacks, summer activity kits for children, and winter hats, scarfs and coats for children.”

Total, the Resource Bus serves an average of 260 households a month.

One of Tritsch’s most recent trips was to the Elizabeth Layton Community Center in Ottawa. He checked in with his site contact shortly after 9 a.m. By 9:30, people began to arrive. Most walked up to the Resource Bus, but one man was unable to get out of his truck, so Tritsch went to him.

The bags he distributed were prefilled by volunteers at Hope Distribution Center with the standard contents: shelf-stable nonperishables such as pasta, canned vegetables and fruit, and bread. He also added frozen items to the bags.

“The meat we’re giving away is frozen cooked pork shoulder roasts,” said Tritsch. “Sometimes it’s chicken, sometimes it’s pork. It depends on whatever is donated by various grocery stores. We have frozen blueberries we’re giving away, too.”

Tom Tritsch sorts through bags of food and other items inside the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Resource Bus. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

People come to him outside of the Resource Bus and fill out intake forms. It’s one bag for a family of four or less, two bags for a family of five or more, or a box for even larger families. Tritsch gives them contact information for a Catholic Charities case manager if they have other needs.

No one is turned away. He gives until the food is gone. If any is left over, he gives it to local food pantries.

The people who come to the Resource Bus include retired grandparents taking care of their grandchildren; single elderly, some with disabilities; a few young people; and the working poor whose paychecks can’t cover the necessities. He checks the forms to see if they have children who may need diapers.

“These are salt-of-the-earth people,” said Tritsch, “people in need.”

Tritsch is one of 10 volunteer Resource Bus drivers for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, but they need more.

New volunteers are trained through a “shadowing” program, said Lucas. Catholic Charities is looking for individuals with good driving records, who are friendly and work well with people, and are organized and can do some lifting.

“The thing I enjoy the most [about being a Resource Bus volunteer] is the very direct feeling of helping a family,” said Lucas. “You’re giving food directly to the folks who need it, and you can see how appreciative they are. You can recognize there’s a real need there.

“Each site is unique, with its own flavor in terms of clientele. But they are all appreciative and will express it verbally. There aren’t tons of resources [in these communities] for folks who are struggling, so the fact we are there is a lifeline for these communities.”

If you are interested in becoming a Resource Bus volunteer driver, contact Lucas by calling (913) 433-2089, or by sending an email to: alucas@catholiccharitiesks.org.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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