POULSBO — Mike DeAscentiis is no stranger to feeding the hungry.
For 26 years, DeAscentiis served as a Navy cook aboard submarines. Now retired, DeAscentiis is working with St. Vincent de Paul to feed the less fortunate in Kitsap County.
The retired senior chief petty officer said he wasn’t always so taken with the idea of charitable giving, though.
“My second year into retirement, my wife said, ‘You got to do something with yourself,’ ” DeAscentiis said. As a member of St. Olaf’s Church, DeAscentiis saw an opportunity when Curtis Brown, the president of the church’s branch of St. Vincent de Paul, spoke about volunteer opportunities.
“The love that these people have, some of these people have been doing this for 25 years,” DeAcentiis said. “How special is that, to devote your life to helping others?”
Initially, DeAscentiis said, he found himself struggling to help the people who came to him for assistance.
“I thought people were trying to take advantage of everybody. Before you walked in for assistance, I looked at you in a bad way. I was sizing people up.”
DeAscentiis eventually learned to overcome his own skepticism and look at those in need through a different lens.
“If everyone in this country was able to look at each other with their heart instead of their eyes, I think we’d be way better off,” DeAscentiis said. “As soon as I did that, no matter what you look like when you come into the office [or] what your problem is, I hear you better now.”
Recently, DeAscentiis and the St. Olaf Church chapter of St. Vincent de Paul worked to distribute Thanksgiving dinner boxes to 89 local families. Boxes of groceries, all donated by parishioners, were lined up on rows of tables inside the church and distributed to families in need. Groceries were delivered to those who could not make it to the church.
It wasn’t just food being delivered, either.
“Just to show you the kindness of some of the parishioners, one of them had put Christmas presents in there for the kids,” DeAscentiis said. “There’s some good people left here.”
When asked what it means to him to see box after box of groceries stacked up on the tables in the church, DeAscentiis said the sight leaves him feeling optimistic.
“There’s hope,” he said. “When people can come together, we can do great things. If you lose hope, you’ve lost everything.”
Feeding the homeless and others in need can sometimes be a daunting task, DeAscentiis said, simply given the number of homeless people in the area.
“You don’t realize how many people in Kitsap County are homeless, how many people in Kitsap County are living in their cars,” he said. “That’s just not right. We have enough resources throughout this world to take care of the world two times over.”
Despite the mammoth task. DeAscentiis said the group would still do everything in their power to help as many people as possible.
“Are we going to be able to get everybody? Probably not. But we are going to be able to at least help as many as we possibly can.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Olaf’s Church relies on financial and food donations from parishioners and the public for their ongoing assistance programs, as well as their upcoming Christmas basket program.
For more information on donating, call 360-779- 9980. Financial donations may also be sent to St. Olaf’s Church at 18943 Caldart Ave. NE, Poulsbo, WA 98370.
— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.