By John Joseph Fahey

The Mary Ann Brett Food Pantry held its annual fundraiser – in fact it was the 15th anniversary of the second largest food pantry (after Catholic Charities) in Dorchester. Relevant because the food pantry, named after the mother of former Dorchester State Representative and now president of The New England Council Jim Brett, is located in the lower level of St. Margaret’s Church on Columbia Road. The imposing Romanesque Revival style edifice was designed by Patrick C. Keely, a prominent church architect with roots in Ireland.

St. Margaret’s was erected at the confluence of Columbia Road and Dorchester Avenue in 1904 – only 50 years after what is referred to as the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-52) a difficult era where it is estimated that 1 million people died of hunger and 1 million emigrated to other countries; as a result, the United States saw many Irish come and settle in this country and indeed, become part of the ethnic and cultural fabric that make up so much of the population of the country.

But despite the eventual improvement in the standard of living which the Irish and other immigrants of various ethnicities enjoyed, the struggle to meet financial obligations was always present – a struggle that continues to this day. To ease the hardship of affording groceries – a difficulty experienced by many despite living in areas especially in the urban environment known for its high cost of living – the establishment of food pantries has definitely helped. And this is where the Mary Ann Brett Food Pantry comes in. The food pantry has been successful in trying to lighten the burden for those who need assistance.

In fact, the Mary Ann Brett Food Pantry serves over 500 families monthly, and although the area was once predominantly Irish, that is no longer the case. Indeed, the pantry serves those of all backgrounds. Interestingly, those who are dedicated in helping at the pantry come in all ages – and ethnic backgrounds. Those that give their time to serve their neighbors in need often come from as diverse conditions as those with whom they are assisting.

However, what does it take to operate a food pantry? It takes volunteers, commitment, and of course resources, with funding naturally being key. The pantry has been successful but is also important to keep it supported. Over the last several years for example, Jim has has made a commitment to raise one  million dollars  – a commitment that was realized. An impressive figure to be sure; but fundraising must continue.

With the launching of the pantry, its mission was clear, and for the last decade and a half the pantry has carried out that mission – a ministry if you will to help the many needy and grateful families that the pantry assists; as its Mission Statement indicates:

“Our mission is to provide nutritious groceries with kindness and compassion to individuals and families facing economic hardship and living in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. The Mary Ann

Brett Food Pantry serves any and all residents of Dorchester in need.”

The March 16th Fundraiser had no lack of supporters or dignitaries in attendance. The three-hour program included many from those who contribute their time at the pantry as well as those from the government, business and entertainment sectors.

Radio talk show host Dan Rea of WBZ radio’s NightSide served as Master of Ceremonies. Part of the program also included the 2024 Dorchester Hall of Fame Induction with the following inductees: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Honorable Frank Baker (former Boston City Councilor) as well as newscaster, and Dorchester native Latoyia Edwards of NBC10 Boston.

Among the many elected officials in attendance were Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll; City of Boston Mayor

Michelle Wu; Congressman Stephen Lynch; State Senator Nick Collins; City Council President Ruthzee

Louijeune; City Councilors Ed Flynn, John FitzGerald and Erin Murphy; State Representatives Dan Hunt, John Moran, Kevin Honan and Sean Garballey; Acting Suffolk Superior Court Clerk for Civil Business John E. Powers III, and former Clerk of the City of Boston Maureen Feeney. The festivities also included many of the area’s clergy including Pastor of St. Margaret’s Church (and St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish) Reverend John Ronaghan and the Archdiocese’s newest Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Cristiano G. Borro Barbosa.

Lt. Governor Driscoll when relating the importance of the pantry reflected on an interesting reality putting the necessity of food pantries in perspective, especially after the pandemic. Driscoll spoke of   the demand for such services which has quadrupled just in the last few years.

And it is due to this demand that the pantry remains in operation.

Jim reflects on not only what the pantry means to those in need but he often reflects on a quote from Scripture which expresses how important it is to be there for others: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)

And certainly this message from Matthew is apparent with the work carried out at the Mary Ann Brett

Food Pantry; but the pantry requires support and funding; and at this annual St. Patrick’s Day weekend event it was evident by those present and by their support that the Mary Ann Brett Food Pantry will move forward in its mission.


Jim Brett; Hon. Frank Baker; Hon. Stephen Lynch


Latoyia Edward and Jim Brett


Dr. Michael K. Thomas; Elder Scott N. Taylor, Area Seventy for New England Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints; Jim Brett