John Bowling is one of nine children.
When his dad died unexpectedly, John was only 14 years old.
“We never went hungry, but there weren’t very many steaks at our house,” John said. “We hardly ever ate out. You can’t take nine kids out to eat.”
As a Food Pantry volunteer, John knows what it’s like to make a little go a long way.
“We were fortunate that we didn’t have to miss meals,” John added. “When you think about that, it sounds like a given, but then you look around when you’re down here and you know that the people we serve are missing meals. If it helps them spend their food dollars on something else, that’s a good thing.”
The Food Pantry, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, provided groceries to almost 7,500 households and 16,500 individuals in 2023. This includes nearly 5,500 children from infants to 17 years old, more than 3,000 seniors, and 899 Veterans.
To make sure each person and family receives enough meat and produce takes intentional planning. John’s background as vice president of purchasing for 43 years has helped with his role at the Food Pantry. After retiring in 2015, John ensures the inventory at the Food Pantry is stocked and lasts throughout the month.
“He’s always been really good about making sure that the food gets out there at the Food Pantry,” added Betsy, John’s wife. “He knows what it is to not have what you need, so he’s very generous.”
Finding the Food Pantry
John and Betsy, members of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, are longtime volunteers at the Food Pantry on Tuesdays. The Bowlings enjoy serving together and the “commonality” in their relationship. They both retired about a year apart and wanted to use their time wisely. Several Holy Trinity members were already serving, which was how they found out about getting involved at the Food Pantry.
“I enjoy the variety of people, clients, volunteers, and jobs that are available,” Betsy said. “One week I might be working the window, the next week I’m opening bags in the back.”
“If I didn’t have something to do, I’d probably go crazy,” John added. “I believe you have to do something, so why not do something that’s going to help other people. I would say I could take up golf, but I’m terrible, so that would be bad for everybody.”
The comradery amongst the group has been something that makes the hard work of serving every week worth it.
“There’s like eight to 10 of us who go out to lunch afterwards,” he said. “We have a good relationship. We all laugh and have a good time, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it.”
The Bowlings have served faithfully for a number of years.
“Their many hours of service are much appreciated,” said Donna Young Cicchiello, Director of Conference Affairs & Volunteer Services.
Finding Each Other
The Food Pantry is a large part of John and Betsy crossing paths. They both were married for a long time—John for 25 years, Betsy for 35 years—before they became widows in 2012 and 2009,
They hung out in the same circle of friends from Holy Trinity. They had become familiar with each other over time and had similar interests.
“We thought, well life is short and we’re not getting any younger, so maybe this will work,” Betsy said.
It has. They started dating in Jan. 2017, engaged a year later, and married at Holy Trinity in July 2018. They were surrounded by their children and grandchildren to tie the knot.
“On the day we got married, John said, ‘I want everyone in the wedding,’” Betsy added. “So, he inherited eight grandchildren. Now we’re up to nine with a great grandchild.”
John shares the secret to a successful marriage.
“The only thing I guaranteed her is that I’d make her smile every day.”
“And he has,” Betsy added.