The picture at the immediate left is a view of some of the 125 boxes prepared for the families who were judged to be the most in need of help at this time. There were more than 125 families in the program, mainly through the food bank distribution center of the parish, but the overflow of about 100 families was channeled to two other Non-Profit Social/Spiritual programs who partner with the program at Holy Family. The facilities of Holy Family cannot productively support more than 125 families.
Inquiring minds will perhaps be wondering how the parish gets to identify the families who can use the help offered by the parish. The question, "What's in the boxes" may also arise. Well, I'm about to tell you, so hang in there for a few moments more.
This program has been in action for nearly 30 years now (28+) at Holy Family parish. It is an activity directly connected to the St. Vincent de Paul community active in the parish. It was introduced by the members of the chapter of St. Vincent de Paul during the first year of the establishment of the charitable society's chapter at Holy Family. The leader of the project is the same person who was there at the very beginning. Her name is Terry Clark and she is standing tall for you right here, below and to the left.
They were taken on the very day when the 125 families who had been identified for the benefit of the program would come by and claim their basket. (See picture at the top) Each container was personalized and contained items that would answer the most pressing needs of the recipients. Some packages were intended for widows, some for elderly couples, some for families with children, some for shut-ins and some for people in circumstances that neither you nor I can imagine. The people are identified through contacts made throughout the year by dedicated people who are called by God in a special way to visit parishioners door to door as a ministry. Many are also found because parishioners report the situation either to Terry, to the Pastor or to a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society community directly. When such information is delivered, the in-house visits begin and will occur a few more times during the year.
The picture above was snapped a few short minutes before the real traffic would begin to move. Terry was holding her trusty pencil so that she and her helper could keep a running tally of who took what and when. Before this, Terry showed me around and introduced me to the packages neatly arranged on the floor (see above) and tagged for easy identification. It was like letting me into her own home and letting me hug so many of her special friends. In the short time that we spent together she told me the short version of how the "Adopt a Family" program started at Holy Family parish. She told me how at first she would worry about money, but then learned to just throw it all into the hands of God Himself. From that moment on, for 29 years, she has never had a worry. Through the St. Vincent de Paul Community this program shares in four fund-raising events that are held each year. Throughout the year, and mostly at Christmas many of the parishioners freely donate cash and kind for the program so that in the end, every needy person gets help.
Father Michael, Spiritual Father of Holy Family Parish
While I was listening to the story, I noticed that there were many people around helping. Even young people. Terry is glad to have them because some of us older specimens are not what we used to be when it comes to moving heavy stuff around. All of the "volunteers" I saw were indeed from the parish territory and some of them were there to satisfy court orders to perform civil service hours for one reason or another. As it turns out, there are some of the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Chapter in Holy Family Parish who help people under court orders by offering them work around the church for the duration of their sentence. What was happening before my eyes was therefore an exercise of Christians helping one another in many more ways than one. In the spirit of full disclosure, even I accepted a piping hot cup of fresh coffee which I consumed during my visit to the distribution site.
When all the volunteers were gathered and everything was ready to go, the pastor, Fr. Michael came into the hall, gave a short exhortation and a blessing of thanks to one and all, exchanged some polite pleasantries and exited right to allow God's work to proceed. I distanced myself from Terry because she now had to focus on the task at hand, orderly distribution. I remained by the side of her right-hand aide-de-camp, Alicia Esparza. Alicia, like Terry has been a key to the "Adopt as Family" program for the 29 years of its existence. From Alicia I got filled-in about the wonderful fraternal spirit that has existed among the many different ethnic and national groups that comprise the parish. Alicia and her husband Alberto have been our neighbors for more than 30 years, so it was very uplifting to spend these moments of spiritual experience with her.
This visit was the first time that I had ever seen this operation up close. I thank God for giving me the time, the freedom and the grace to spend time with the zealous disciples who dedicate themselves to His basic Mission of caring for the orphans, the widows, the sick and the infirm. Terry suffered the sudden loss of her husband a short time before the due date of the very first "Adopt a Family" event. Like the good and zealous servants that she is, she didn't look back then and doesn't now. She knew that the support of her beloved would continue from above, so here she is, in the spirit of the loving Jesus and her spiritually present spouse carrying on for the comfort of God's People. I'm declaring to you right now, I will not cry at Terry's funeral because I firmly believe that God will just take her by the hand and they'll go for a walk in His Eternally Blooming Garden. If I don't cry for her, you don't have to cry for me, even if just to get even.