Members of Holy Family Parish recently made the holidays a little bit brighter for more than two dozen families in the Gates area.
Parishioners distributed baskets full of food to 29 families at Thanksgiving and 27 families at Christmas time, according to Debbie Sumner, administrative assistant at the Gates parish.
"There are some very grateful families," Sumner remarked.
The baskets were filled with the staples necessary for holiday meals, thanks to the generosity of Holy Family parishioners as well as funds from a Hunger Relief grant from Catholic Family Center, Sumner added. These Hunger Relief grants are funded in part with proceeds from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, whose 47th-annual campaign currently is underway.
Holy Family takes up food collections every month in order to keep its food cupboard well-stocked, and when Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, parishioners are asked to contribute specific items for the food baskets, Sumner said.
"There's a special list. For Thanksgiving we requested (items like) turkey and biscuits and pie filling, just stuff for a regular Thanksgiving dinner. We usually put a $20 gift card in to supplement for dairy and other things we don't collect," she said.
The Christmas baskets included turkey or ham, as well as at least two gifts for each child in the families that received baskets. This year the parish provided gifts for 42 children, Sumner noted.
"It's a pretty awesome program," she said, explaining that some of the families helped by the program are parishioners at Holy Family themselves.
Sumner knows these families work hard yet still struggle to make ends meet. They're very humble and grateful for the assistance provided by their fellow parishioners, and Sumner said she enjoys witnessing the joy of basket recipients as well as the generosity of those who contribute to the baskets.
"That's what makes Christmas so awesome," she said. "The generosity of people just blows me away."
Most of the items in the Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets were donated by parishioners, and volunteers used part of the parish's $700 Hunger Relief grant to purchase any food items, gift cards or gifts lacking in any of the baskets. This past year the parish also used part of its grant money to purchase a few gas cards for people in need and to shore up the food cupboard's stock when it runs low, Sumner said.
"We're very discerning. We sort of spread (the funds) around," she explained. "The grant really does help us out. I apply for it every year, and we've been very blessed in receiving grants so we are able to help other people."