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Tom and Louise Martin
C0-Founders of the Clarksburg Mustard Seed

Willing Hearts

Around 1960, Louise and Tom Martin were invited by their Parish Priest to make a three-day retreat called a cursillo. A cursillo retreat is to train Christian lay people how to be Christian leaders. And, that was the beginning. Louise saw a need in the community and ran with it. She thought they would help a few families, providing them with what they needed. The families she started with needed help with housing and groceries. One heart-warming story was a family with 10 children who were given a run-down house, rent free, in exchange for them doing necessary repairs. This became an impossible challenge, as racial prejudice was rampant, and they were an inter-racial couple. The children in the area made a game out of breaking their windows. They had no car and lived where there was no bus service. In assessing the situation, it was clear they needed a vehicle to survive. After many prayers, Louise approached the Immaculate Conception Parish Council and pled their case and requested money for a car. The council was shocked at the request, but the Pastor gave permission to purchase an affordable vehicle. Louise and two of the council members searched and found a decent car for $700. They found permanent work and a livable residence in Clarksburg. One day there was a knock at the door and there stood the father of that large family. He presented Louise with an envelope with $700 in it. Through tears of gratitude, he said the gift of a car literally saved their lives and they would be eternally grateful. The children grew up to do well for themselves and gratefully remember the help their family received.

The Need Grows

Discovering that adequate food was also scarce in the homes of the families they helped led Louise to put a notice in the church bulletin for emergency food that she delivered to those in need. Tom was prompted to find a much safer way to distribute the food. At the time they owned Martin Printing Company, and they moved stock in such a way that the bindery of the shop became a food pantry. Those who didn’t have transportation were delivered their food by Martin Printing employees. One very cold day, Louise received a call from her husband, upset that the children coming for food had not coats or proper clothing for the weather. Thus began a clothing drive and was set up in their basement on Clay St. She never thought twice about taking a person through her house to the basement to find them what they needed.

The Naming of the "Mustard Seed"

When their associate pastor came to visit them at their house, he remarked that this act of charity had outgrown their space. He suggested to Louise and Tom that a board should be formed and invite other churches to join in their efforts to serve those in need. First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Next came naming the organization. Louise turned to her bible for help. The Parable of the Mustard Seed caught her eye. Like the birds in Matthew’s Gospel, people would find comfort and help. The Mustard Seed Food Pantry was voted in by the newly formed board.

Church Families Come Together

All three churches were represented at the first board meeting and the first issue on the agenda was the need for a physical location from which they could operate. They were provided space by Louis Bonnasso at Colonial Village until the lease was up. Then they moved to the basement of the old Sisters of St. Joseph Convent. When the convent was set for demolition, the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston offered them space in a building they owned on Pike St.

A Life Dedicated to Giving Respect and Care in Jesus' Name

Louise's hope and goal is that as the families are provided for, that they are treated with respect and care in Jesus’ name.  She is eternally grateful that she had the desire and opportunity to live out her faith by helping those less fortunate.  “The wonderful volunteers and friends I have met along the way made this journey a true blessing and continue to enrich my life immensely.”