For 16 years, the lay group Pro Labore Dei/Feed My Lambs has been faithfully feeding the homeless and the needy in Robbins. When the pandemic hit and many people lost their jobs, the members felt called to expand their work to Blue Island. Now, every Saturday, the group distributes boxes of fresh produce, groceries, toilet paper and other items in the parking lot of St. Donatus Church in Blue Island. Cars start lining up over an hour before the giveaway begins. Then they make their way around the lot, stopping at stations where volunteers put food and supplies in their trunks. Over 400 people receive food each week. Pro Labore Dei/Feed My Lambs is the local mission of an international organization whose purpose is feeding and clothing the homeless around the world. It was founded in 1990 by Sister Stella Maris Okonkwo in Nigeria. When the pandemic started, they members were praying for guidance on how they could help more people in Blue Island, said Ann DeAngelis, the group’s coordinator. Then, Testa Produce, where DeAngelis’ brother works, pledged to donate 500 cases of fresh produce each week. They just needed a spot to park the truck. DeAngelis reached out to Father Diego Cadavid at St. Donatus, asking to use the church’s parking lot. She said he told her that he had been praying to God for a way to help give food to his people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. “They have just put their arms around us,” DeAngelis said of St. Donatus. “As a mission, we’ve needed this because we’ve just been standing still in Robbins for 16 years.” The parish is also able to provide refrigeration to store other perishables to give away, like milk and eggs. What doesn’t come in through donations, the group purchases themselves. A rosary and prayer booklets in English and Spanish also go into the bags they give away. Prayer is a part of everything Pro Labore Dei does, DeAngelis said. The group gathers to pray before the giveaway begins, a member greets every car and, if requested, prays with those inside and before they drive away, a member greets them again and asks if they have any prayer requests. Those requests are given to Cadavid, who offers them up during daily Mass. While there are only about 20 members locally, DeAngelis said many other groups from area parishes and schools donate food or funds to Pro Labore Dei. They also make meals and help distribute them on Saturdays. Pat O’Mara, became involved with Pro Labore Dei eight years ago when her parish, St. John Fisher, was looking for a new volunteer project to support. “I went out one Saturday to see if it was a good fit for us. I never left,” O’Mara said. “I kept coming back without even being have to be asked.” Her parish supports the group throughout the year, including at Christmas, when parishioners donate gifts for 400 people in Robbins, and Easter, when they donate baskets. Helping those in need has transformed her life, O’Mara said. “Each week when I come, I leave so joyful and so happy. It’s like seeing Jesus in every single person’s face,” O’Mara said. “Growing up, we were very poor. We didn’t have much food or anything, so it feels so good to give people food especially.” Deacon Richard Korepanow from St. Damian Parish in Oak Forest is one of the Pro Labore Dei members who, right after the pandemic shut things down, began delivering meals door-to-door in Blue Island. “It was a beautiful program when we were able to do it because we were bringing food to people’s homes who couldn’t leave because of the virus,” he said. “You can just see how you can touch the hearts of people when you do things like that and bring God to them.” He knew of the need to help the poor in both Robbins and Blue Island. “It’s hard to listen to the Gospel when your stomach is growling,” he said. They don’t just bring food to those who need it, he continued, they bring Christ. “I can feel the Holy Spirit working in this group. It’s here on the part of the volunteers. It’s here on the part of the people that come and receive whatever blessings we have for them,” he said. “Therefore we’re able to bring Christ to all of these people, even if it’s in just saying ‘God bless you’ or ‘May God keep you safe’ on a weekly basis. It’s a start, a foundation.” For more information or to make a donation to Pro Labore Dei/Feed My Lambs, visit pldchicago.org.