In just seven months, the newly created Claret Food Pantry at San Gabriel Mission has grown from serving 18 families to 80. And the goal is to reach 200 in two years, said Deacon Guido Zamalloa, the Claret Food Pantry Committee coordinator.

Held Sundays (9-11 a.m.) in the parish’s center patio, the food pantry is staffed by parish organizations attached to the church. Boy Scout troops, high school youth, Vietnamese communities, Spanish prayer groups and other volunteers take turns distributing the food, toiletries and other household essentials.

“Our goal is to help the needy and families with low income in the San Gabriel area and neighboring cities,” said Zamalloa. “Some people are embarrassed to show up, and once they find out we don’t ask any immigration status, then they come.”

The pantry, working with Los Angeles Food Bank, has distributed about 47,000 pounds of food to date. Target of Alhambra has been a generous donor of household products to the pantry, said Zamalloa, who hopes more stores and businesses will participate in the weekly distribution. Another big goal: building a large walk-in cooler room at the parish so the pantry can store items that need to be kept cold.

Zamalloa looks toward the coming Christmas season. “We would like to get donations of toys that can be divided up to three groups in need,” he said, describing not only the pantry families but also sending gifts to families in Mexico and Vietnam. “Our congregation has active Spanish and Vietnamese communities and we want to support that.”