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Visit our SignUp Genius to find a date that works for your family or group.
If you have any questions, email our Ministry Coordinators:
The Downs, Hoffman & Marino Families, Hope McFarland, Lori and Dale Zagiba


About Brown Bag Ministry

The primary mission of the Brown Bag Ministry is to reach out to those in need and feed the hungry. Through the main location in Apex, Brown Bag Ministry prepares and distributes over 12,000 brown bag lunches a month to those in need throughout Durham and Wake Counties.

At St. Francis of Assisi, we  prepare and distribute 84 brown bag lunches every Saturday to Morehead Hills, a low-income senior apartment complex in Durham. Lunches consist of delicious sandwiches, fruit snacks, granola bars, crackers, dessert, and notes of scripture. While volunteers provide some of the groceries, St. Francis will reimburse $50 per Saturday to help with the cost. Once the lunches are packed and ready, we gather for a brief prayer and devotional time before driving to Durham to deliver the lunches directly in to the hands of the residents of Morehead Hills. This face-to-face contact, sharing food, a smile and kind words, is what makes Brown Bag Ministry so special. The ministry welcomes families and groups of all ages. Many youth-based parish or non-parish groups can easily participate: Youth Group, Y-Guides, Scouts, sports team, etc. Please join us!

  • Ministry Coordinators: The Downs, Hoffman & Marino Families, Hope McFarland, Lori and Dale Zagiba
  • Contact:
  • Time Commitment: approx. 2 hours, Saturday morning 9:00 – 11:00am
Grocery List and Volunteer Checklist

Click here for the grocery list and everything you need to serve with Brown Bag Ministry.

These photos give a good idea of the groceries needed.


Please bring your grocery receipt if you wish to be reimbursed.

The St. Francis Brown Bag Ministry will reimburse $25 per 42 lunches or $50 total for 84.



Ministry Driver Form
St. Francis and the diocese require that all drivers complete the
Ministry Driver Information and Liability Insurance Acknowledgement

Complete the electronic form below or click here for a printable version.
If using the printable form, please include copies of your driver’s license and auto insurance card.

Photo Release Form
St. Francis often uses photographs for the website, bulletin, and other parish publications. If you agree to using photographs of your group, please complete the Photo Authorization form.

You can either complete the electronic form below or click here for a printable version.

Other Ways to Serve
St. Francis Brown Bag Ministry always welcomes donations of food, toiletries, and household cleaning supplies.
Food: Individually wrapped packs of: snack crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, desserts
Toiletries: Shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving cream, razors
Household Cleaning Supplies: Dish soap, bathroom cleaner, window cleaner, disinfecting wipes

The senior citizen residents of Morehead Hills love when children decorate the brown bags.
They also appreciate hand-written notes of scripture and encouragement

Please contact us if you would like to make a donation or help with brown bags and notes:

Brown Bag Ministry Photos and Stories

For Brown Bag’s Founder, It's About More Than Lunch
St. Francis Bulletin article from October 11, 2015
Written by Nanette Kirsch

bbmMore than four years ago parishioner Rich Zemonek had a vision to start a new mission at St. Francis, and from that vision Brown Bag Ministry was born. 

On the first and third Saturdays of every month Rich, his wife Angela, and often some of their four children assist volunteers in preparing, packaging and delivering 88 lunches door-to-door at the Morehead Hills Apartments in Durham. When the lunches are ready to go, Rich builds in a brief scripture reading and prayer time. The ministry itself also has been a journey of faith. Volunteers appear at just the right time to fill open slots in the schedule, and despite variances in the resident population there are always enough bags and usually a few extras. The seniors tell our volunteers, “Yours is the best food we receive.” The bible passages tucked into their lunches are often preserved on residents’ front doors.

Surely the Lord would say of Rich’s quiet heart for serving, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Thank you Rich and the Zemonek family for outstanding leadership and service of Brown Bag Ministry! 

The new ministry leaders, Tricia Downs and Nanette Kirsch, invite you to volunteer at the recently updated webpage, or by emailing


Brown Bag: Word of Mouth Attracts Families to Ministry
Trevor Thompson
April 7, 2014

St. Francis’ Brown Bag Ministry came to life when parishioner Rich Zemonek saw a need for a ministry in which families of all ages could serve together in a meaningful way. Every other Saturday the ministry packs and delivers 88 brown bag lunches to residents of the Morehead Hills senior apartment complex in Durham.

Rich has crafted a meaningful two-hour experience that incorporates prayer, service, fellowship among families, and interaction with residents who receive lunches.

Parishioner Nanette Kirsch and her four children, ages 11 to 17, are regular volunteers with the Brown Bag Ministry. “I was looking for something for my family to do that we could all do together that would be very hands on,” Nanette said. “We’ve done it with a couple of other families that are friends. It’s a great way to spend a morning. ” She said her kids particularly like the face-to-face interaction with residents.

Rich, himself a father of four children, was looking for opportunities to serve the community as a family when he founded the ministry three years ago. He brought Brown Bag Ministry to St. Francis after an experience volunteering with the Y-Guides at St. Andrews in Apex, which serves brown bag lunches to more than 1,000 people every week.

Two families (or a group such as Boy or Girl Scouts) serve together. Families purchase groceries and assemble sandwiches at home. Rich makes it easy by providing brown bags, plastic bags and a list of types of items to buy. Families arrive at church on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and spend 15 minutes packing lunches together.

Prayer is an important part of the experience. Before leaving for Durham, Rich leads a 10-minute prayer service in the chapel, beginning with a Scripture reading about feeding the hungry. He also plays the guitar and leads the families in a song. Nanette said she appreciates the shared prayer time. “That process really makes us mindful of how we’re serving and bringing Christ to others, delivering lunches and bringing joy to others,” Nanette said.

When St. Francis folks arrive at the apartment complex near the Durham Bulls Stadium, usually six to 12 residents are waiting in the lobby or on benches outside. “They light up and are really glad to see you,” Rich said.

The ministry even draws volunteers from outside St. Francis. Rachel Godfrey found out about the ministry on Volunteer Match and volunteers regularly with her husband. She said she is “not Catholic, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist.” But “I definitely believe in the principle of love your neighbor. That principle alone can take you a lifetime,” Rachel said. “I feel like if I’m just surviving, living, taking care of my own needs I haven’t evolved unless I’m helping other people.”

You get more out of it than you give
Frank Lesko
March 21, 2012

“You get more out of it than you give.”

This is one of the most common expressions we hear from ministry leaders and volunteers when they reflect on their outreach work. People even laugh when they say it, because they know it has become cliché—but that is only because it is so consistently true.

We hear this echoed whether folks are delivering brown bag lunches to low-income seniors in Durham, transporting migrant workers to Mass on Sundays at Our Lady of the Rosary parish or spending a week serving the hungry and homeless in Philadelphia at St. Francis Inn, just to name a few active ministries at this parish.

The readings this week beckon us to look for wisdom in places where society is least likely to look. David was the unlikely heir to the throne. In his day, the firstborn symbolized a family’s inheritance. Having seven older brothers, David was the furthest removed. David was even left to care for the sheep while his older brothers were invited to an assembly gathered to select the new king. No one thought that David had any chance at all, yet he was the one selected. Society invested more in the eldest; God gave the kingdom to the youngest.

The man born blind in today’s Gospel was a beggar and poorly regarded by society. It was thought that physical illness was a sign of God’s disfavor, so people were wary of him. Yet, he was able to see Jesus as the Son of Man most clearly.   The religious establishment of the day could not acknowledge that, since Jesus did not come by the parameters their tradition had laid out, despite evidence that something amazing and miraculous had happened. The man born blind was thrown out for attempting to “teach” the teachers.

God’s Kingdom works differently than our earthly ones. Scripture and Tradition consistently attest that it is the poor, the eclipsed, the throw-away people who see Jesus first and who lead us to God. As Paul reminds, “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” In light of the other readings today, Paul seems to suggest that what is pleasing to the Lord is not always what pleases society, so it will take some effort on our part to discover this. We must take the time to look closely and not judge from appearance, as the Lord told Samuel in the first reading.

It is not at all surprising that when we attempt to live out our baptismal call to ministry, that the tables are turned and we find ourselves just as much the receivers as the givers.

For a list of all upcoming ministry events at St. Francis (click here)
For a list of all ministries at St. Francis, click 
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