Heavenly surprise keeps meals program humming

LISA JOHNSTON | lisajohnston@archstl.org

When a major goof turns into a heavenly surprise, "it's such a God thing," Jane Corbett acknowledged.

A meals program for homeless and other needy people at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in the Soulard neighborhood and the Holy Redeemer Parish group that provides the food and staffs it once a month have a lot of new friends as a result of what looked like a terrible loss.

An envelope with money collected to purchase food for the meals had been placed on the trunk of her car and forgotten. When Corbett, arrived at the entrance ramp of westbound I-44 at Murdoch Avenue the cash contents spilled out and scattered. She didn't realize the money was missing until later and didn't know where she lost it.

Ray Leuthauser, a plasterer at Niehaus Construction Services and member of Plasters' Local 3, was following Corbett's car after getting off of work Aug. 13 at the renovation of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury. He pulled over after trying to get the driver's attention and then retrieved whatever he could find — $300 and a card issued to Peter and Paul Community Services.

It was only a portion of the funds, but in the end the union tradesmen Leuthauser works with and some of their locals pulled together to more than make up for the loss after Leuthauser learned that Corbett was going to cover the deficit herself.

"The money that I lost was all the money we had for the homeless people for the next couple months, and then we were going to be out of money. Now we live on faith, and we have for 30 years on the faith that God is going to provide money for this program. We've come very short many times, but never out of money or out of food."

The number of people in need is growing, Corbett said, including women and children, so the work is more important than ever.

Volunteers from Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and from many other parishes take turns preparing and serving the meals from the fifth through the 21st of each month to residents of Peter and Paul Community Services shelter as well as to needy families.

The funds, $800, came from parishioners of Holy Redeemer and St. Michael Parish, where Corbett is a member. She also raises funds for programs serving needy people in Haiti. Corbett was on her way to deliver items to St. Augustine Parish in North St. Louis and then to drop off the money to the person who would purchase food for the meals.

She searched frantically for it, and decided to stop. "It's just like God said, 'Sit down and pray.' So I sat down and read that prayer of Jabez, 'Widen my Territory,' at which point the phone rang."

She was put in touch with Leuthauser, who told her he found $330 of the missing money. Later, his co-workers decided to cover the rest of it and the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 offered to send $500 to match it. "It was such a mistake, but it turned into a miracle," Corbett said. "It gives me goose bumps talking about it. God really does take care of fools."

Leuthauser said Corbett had given him a prayer book, a thank-you card and fresh cherries. He opened the card and learned he received a $25 reward. He returned it, and found out Corbett was making up the missing money from her savings. He donated $20 that he had in his wallet, then other BSI Constructors workers at the Kenrick-Glennon site took up a collection and Local 3 added $80.

"What happened on the job site, the money that was raised, was because of the union trades, the workers out there," Leuthauser said.

He said he appreciated meeting Corbett and learning about the programs the parishioners support. "From what I can gather, this is the Mother Teresa of volunteering. She definitely has a very good heart." 

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