Amid disruptions to daily life caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the food-outreach ministry at Greece’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish hasn’t missed a beat in its role of providing vital support to the community.
The ministry has been bolstered by the ongoing efforts of volunteers, as well as parishioners who leave donations of food at St. Charles Borromeo Church in a designated drop-off area near the statue of St. Joseph. From there, the food is distributed to such organizations as Greece Ecumenical Food Shelf, Catholic Charities Community Services, Our Mother of Sorrows Parish and several city-based ministries.
Also aiding the food-outreach initiative are monetary donations from parishioners. An additional source of financial support was a 2020-21 Hunger Relief Grant of $571 from diocesan Catholic Charities; part of those funds was derived from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. According to Kathy Termine, St. Charles Borromeo’s social-ministry coordinator, the grant money is put toward providing food for folks who call the parish office seeking assistance.
Joan Bigham, parish secretary at St. Charles Borromeo, observed that the level of requests typically rises at this time of year.
“At holidays especially, you can tell that the need is there. The need is extremely evident,” she said.
Bigham noted that many served by the parish are hampered by a variety of financial issues, with the pandemic having taken an extra toll this year.
“We’re just one parish, but I think every parish is experiencing difficulty too,” she remarked.
In recent weeks, volunteers have been busy preparing and delivering Christmas food baskets consisting of nonperishable food items and household goods donated by parishioners. Another recent social-ministry effort at St. Charles Borromeo has been its Advent giving project, with parishioners purchasing a variety of gifts and gift cards for families and individuals served by local agencies. Also helping ease the plight of the impoverished is the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society ministry, which arranges to provide recipients with furniture and other household goods.
Bigham said these ministries wouldn’t be possible without the volunteer support it receives from the St. Charles community — from adult volunteers to youth-group and religious-education youths who collect food donations. For instance, Bigham noted that when Ron Pratt, longtime coordinator of the holiday-basket ministry, had to step aside for this year, fellow parishioners Sue and Ed Holden stepped forward to oversee the effort. She added that Ann and Jerry Eisele, Norma Phelan and the late Sue Ernst have been other mainstays of the food-basket effort.
“St. Charles Parish is awesome. The parishioners are so very giving, and when you ask them to help out with things, they really step up to the plate,” Bigham stated.
In addition to volunteer time, Termine said that St. Charles’ spirit of giving is reflected in its level of donations. She cited this year’s Advent giving project, noting that less support had been expected due to the pandemic.
“None of us on the social-ministry committee thought we would be getting anywhere near what we received. (But) I should never be surprised at the generosity of our St. Charles parishioners — we received more than we asked for,” she remarked.
Termine added that donations of needed items have come in “all throughout the year,” and that several parish social-ministry committee members volunteer at the charitable organizations where the goods are sent.
“We are able to see firsthand not only what is needed, but can attest to how much these donations mean to people,” she said.