By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST END - Thanks in large part to Larry Lampe, 500 West End families know they can count on food from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry every month.
Mary Ann Frisby laughs with Larry Lampe at a surprise send-off party at St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MEGGAN BOOKER
That wasn't the case when he began volunteering nine years ago.
The shelves were empty following Thanksgiving and nothing was left to distribute at Christmas - even though that is one of the busiest times of the year for food pantries.
Lampe, 68, became director of the local Catholic agency a short time later and changed all that. He cleared away unneeded junk to free up space for food. And he hit the pavement to procure enough money and food from supermarkets, businesses and individuals to help fill up the space - and keep it full.
His fellow St. Vincent de Paul volunteers threw a surprise farewell lunch for him Tuesday. Lampe resigned from the pantry Jan. 1 because he wants to become a Catholic deacon.
He has stayed around to train incoming Director Dick McConn and to ease the transition.
The party had to be a surprise because they knew he wouldn't attend if he had known.
Lampe's modesty kicks in when people praise him. "I'm just one of so many who volunteer," he said. "I don't do anything, I just stand here."
But Liz Carter, executive director of the Catholic pantry, disagreed. "There's a lot of happiness in the pantry because of him," Carter said. "Larry has made the volunteers feel like a community."
His presence lends a friendly air to a rundown building on Bank Street.
He gives out hugs and sometimes "makes nickels or peanuts come out of the children's ears," he said.
West End resident Pauline Sims, 41, a mother of 10, said she feels welcome at the pantry. "I look for him (Lampe) at the door. It's not going to be the same. I'm going to miss him - especially at Christmas."
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