One of the biggest challenges Saint Francis Home has faced since opening 45 years ago was how to adequately feed its 125 residents of various races and religions who have a low income or no income.

“We serve over 375,000 meals a year to both residents and some staff,” said Pam Embrey, development director at the Richmond facility.

Through FeedMore, Saint Francis Home’s nutrition center receives an estimated 20,000 pounds of donated food monthly. Because of this, residents are able to eat healthy produce, meats, and dairy products that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Walmart, Sam’s Club and Food Lion donate pallets of food that is slightly expired but still edible. While the donations were welcomed, the home couldn’t effectively transport massive amounts of food by itself. As The Catholic Virginian reported in its March 27, 2017 issue, Saint Francis Home needed a truck — a very large, refrigerated truck.

“Without a truck to transport this food, we would have to turn away hundreds of donated items a day,” Embrey said. “Initially, we were renting a truck, but it was costly. We wanted to own the truck to fully take advantage of the cost savings. A truck of our own will be saving the home several thousand dollars each month in rental fees.”

Bruce Slough, executive director of Saint Francis Home, said, “The need for quality meals is heightened when one lives in a community where many have limited choices for their lives and are completely dependent upon others for even the most basic functions of living. So, food is one of the most important things we do. Fortunately, our residents now eat extremely well.”

After The Catholic Virginian story appeared, Saint Francis Home started receiving donations for the truck, including a $10,000 gift from one donor. Funds were also raised through Saint Francis Home’s Taste of Monte Carlo event and with a grant from Feedmore, BJ’s, and Feeding America. With all this, Saint Francis Home was finally able to purchase a 24-foot-long truck valued at “between $50,000 and $70,000,” according to Embrey. Its impact has been overwhelming.

Besides the residents, perhaps no one is happier about the truck than Edna Mae Harris, Saint Francis Home’s director of food service.

Harris oversees the day-to-day operations of the kitchen and nutrition center, as well as supervises 12 staff members and cooks. When asked about the relationship between staff and residents, she spoke of how she started working at Saint Francis Home in 2002 but had to leave in 2013 due to medical reasons. Slough rehired her three years later.

“I came back to a standing ovation in both dining rooms. Wow! I had been gone over three years and the residents still remembered me. I get choked up every time I think of it,” said Harris.

She is thankful for the truck because it means her residents can eat high-quality and healthy food. Since Saint Francis Home can receive and store an increased amount of food, residents have more options for meals, including being able to have two hot meals a day instead of one.

The home sometimes receives 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of food in a single delivery, ensuring enough food for every resident.

However, even with those donations, Saint Francis Home still needs help. There is a staff to pay, food to prepare, assistance to provide, shelter to give and an array of activities to keep residents well-nourished in body, mind and spirit. Some activities include arts and crafts; yoga; brain games; and outings to movie theatres, museums, and sporting events.

“Given the nature of our mission, fundraising is a continual focus for us,” said Slough.

Despite the low cost of living and heightened donations, Saint Francis Home still opens each month at a deficit. It is always looking for more donations and volunteers. It’s about more than food. It’s about family.

“For myself and my food service team, this is not just a job, but our home also,” said Harris, “We do the job because we believe in the mission of Saint Francis Home.”

Embrey echoed this sentiment, inviting people to visit.

“We have an amazing staff and provide unparalleled care for our residents. Seeing is believing,” she said.

Slough added, “Saint Francis Home may be Richmond’s best kept secret. But all it takes is one visit to see the awesome work that is being done.”

Editor’s note: Donations can be made at http://www.saintfrancishome.com/saintfrancis/Donate or sent to 65 W Clopton St., Richmond, VA 23225. Further information is available by calling (804) 231-1043.