NEW BEDFORD -- As a Catholic, Andy LaVallee, founder and CEO of LaVallee's Bakery Distributors in Waltham, feels charitable work is his moral responsibility.
"We run our company on two real basic values that came out of Pope Benedict's encyclical, 'Charity in Truth,' and that is stewardship is a gift from God and that it's something we're only in possession of, so what we do with it is important," LaVallee said. "We feel like it's a real moral responsibility as a Catholic to do certain things for the community. So we need to take care of some of the Catholic-based food pantries and charities in the area."
When LaVallee's prosperous bakery distribution company has a surplus 1,200 or 1,500 cases of fresh-baked bread on hand, they donate them to places like the Lazarus House or St. Francis House in Boston, or the food pantry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford.
"Sometimes the Greater Boston Food Bank will get the overage," he said, "but we give it to anyone who has a combination of giving charity and faith in God."
"LaVallee's has been very nice and generous to us, for sure," said Paula Briden, coordinator of the food pantry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford. "They have a wonderful heart and they are very willing to help people."
Briden said her parish food pantry has remained steadily busy, unfortunately, and they serve about 400 families regularly, so donations like this are most welcome.
"People were standing in the pouring rain this morning waiting to get in," she said. "We tried to open up a half-hour early so they wouldn't be standing in the rain. People have been very generous and we've received many donations, which makes a big difference."
Having founded his business nearly 35 years ago, LaVallee has always maintained that charity remains key to his success.
"It's really not a benefit, it's more a responsibility," he said. "If you understand creation in Genesis, you understand that God made us for a purpose. What really happens is it comes down to respect and dignity for all people. And if you're fortunate to have a business like we do, you should be giving of the things that are closest to you -- that is, our resources and our products -- to those who aren't as fortunate as us."
The notion that his company is providing bread to the needy -- a food staple and symbol of Christ's Body -- isn't lost on LaVallee, either.
"If you come into our facility, there are a couple of things you'll notice right away in our foyer," he said. "One is an oil portrait of Blessed Pope John Paul II, to remind us of our respect and dignity and what he's done in the world. And then there's also a framed image that was given to me by my employees and it's St. John's Bible verse on the 'Bread of Life.' We've had our facility blessed and I always keep in mind the correlation between our bakery business and the Eucharist. Bread is pretty much the staple of the world and it's thousands and thousands of years old."
LaVallee said his company isn't interested in getting rid of old or stale product that they probably would have otherwise thrown out, either; they provide surplus and newly-made products to local food pantries.
"We look at it this way: if the person receiving this bread were Jesus Christ Himself -- which He is, because we all believe we are part of the Body of Christ -- then are we giving Him the best we can give Him or just stuff that's leftover?" he asked. "Just think about the gifts that He's given us: our health, our purpose, our business, our family. That's really what the decision comes down to."