Press Releases

November 13, 2023



Contact: Theresa Carson
(847) 412-1606


Divine Word responding to holiday need in West Virginia

The Society of the Divine Word is raising funds for Thanksgiving meals for those in need in West Virginia.

“The sad reality is that there are no grocery stores in the whole of Clay County,” said Father Thien Duc Nguyen SVD, pastor of two parishes, which oversee food pantries in Braxton and Clay counties. “This is a food desert. Residents must drive anywhere from 30 to 60 miles to reach a grocery store.”

Father Thien, his parishioners and friends provide food every third week of the month at two locations at St. Thomas Church in Gassaway and Risen Lord Church in Maysel. Currently, the food they give feeds around 800 people. As inflation increases, so has the number of people needing assistance.

“We time the food pantries as we do because that’s when people’s government assistance begins to run out,” Father Thien said. “We can use more help.”

Poverty is no stranger to the state. According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau report, persistent poverty plagues West Virginia. The poverty rate in West Virginia is 16.5 percent with one-fifth of the state suffering from persistent poverty, poverty rates of at least 20 percent for more than 30 years.

The struggle passes from one generation to another. In addition, this region, which has depended upon coal mining as an economic staple for centuries, has fallen even deeper into hard times as public and private entities strive to transition to a tourist-based economy. However, the change could take decades, if not another century.

In addition, a June investigation by U.S. News & World Report ranked Logan County as having the lowest mental health score in all counties in the United States. Of the 25 counties with the lowest scores throughout the United States, more than half are in West Virginia.

Each year, Father Thien Duc Nguyen SVD purchases 200 turkeys and other foodstuff to assure that families in need in Southern West Virginia have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Due to the increase in the number of families coming for food, his parishes plan to order 340 turkeys for Thanksgiving this year.

A gift of $15 provides a turkey for a family. A gift of $40 covers the cost of an entire Thanksgiving meal.
“Any amount is greatly appreciated,” Father Thien said. “We pray for our benefactors each time we gather to distribute food and every Thursday at Mass. Together we are the instruments of God in the world.”

To give to the Society of the Divine Word’s Thanksgiving campaign, please visit: