Bill Verfurth, Don Baker, Dale Ball & Art Steinbau

Daily, many southwest Missouri families are faced with the decision to pay their bills or feed their children, a decision that one should never be confronted by. Luckily, there is help out there for these families. For years, groups of hardworking, caring people have come together to stock the shelves and open the doors of local food pantries. 25 years ago four men started a journey to meet the growing need of hunger in their community. Bill Verfurth, Don Baker, Dale Ball and Art Steinbaugh recognized that hunger and poverty were becoming serious problems in their community and decided that they were not going to sit back and not doing anything to help. The men opened their own chapter of The Society of St. Vincent De Paul. A chapter that has seen Bill as president initially, and is now run by Done, the youngest of the four. Members of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul are people who strive to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to individuals in need and share a common vision of “embracing the world in a network of charity“. It is through the help of this society that these men were able to open their pantry. Located in Billings, Missouri, the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Pantry is a place where the needy families of the area can go to get the relief they need. The pantry first opened its doors in 1983 and became a member of the Ozarks Food Harvest network in 1986. It operates out of a custom-built garage featuring a walk in freezer and fridge, distributing the second Saturday of every month. This is a long way from the three five-foot shelves, and refrigerator they started with in the church’s basement. The need for the pantry has more than doubled in the past year, going from serving around 35 families, to serving more than 100 families monthly! Last year alone they gave away more than 135,000 pounds of food! “We had families waiting here at 9:00pm the night before, just to make sure they got their food,” said Don Baker on the February 14th distribution day. What makes this location truly unique is its leadership. The “Four Musketeers”, as they are known around Ozarks Food Harvest, come in once a week to The Food Bank to pickup what they need. Then Bill, Don, Dale and Art make their rounds, chatting up everyone they can find. And, it’s this fact that has undoubtedly led to the Musketeer’s success. The group’s friendly nature translates to trust throughout their church. So much so that the congregation of 300 families provides the group with most of the financial backing they need. These men have even gained the trust and support of the other churches in their community! One volunteer on the February 14th distribution date said, “We’ve got one of the best ecumenical projects around!” It’s that trust that keeps the group going year after year. These men share a bond, both with each other and with the people they serve. A bond that serves their community well, allowing those facing tough challenges and decisions to find some easy answers. Though these men have been together for the past 25 years, some of them have history that pre-dates even the opening of the pantry. A few of these gentlemen graduated from the same high school and were even baptized in the same church! It is this type of lifetime bond and devotion that allows a group of men to sacrifice so much time and effort over so many years, to serve their community in such an amazing capacity!