Helping Hands of St. Louis in East Toledo makes Thanksgiving and Christmas special for many who might otherwise face empty refrigerators and stockings. Director Paul Cook anticipates providing about 200 food baskets for each holiday. Donations of turkeys, hams, instant mashed potatoes and other side dishes are needed, along with gravy and onions. Families usually receive enough food for three or four meals in a holiday basket.
About a week ahead of each holiday, Helping Hands also hosts traditional dinners for those in need of food and comfort. If Helping Hands receives more turkeys and hams than needed, they are donated to local organizations that also distribute food to those in need.
Those donating turkeys for Thanksgiving are asked to drop them off or arrange pickup at the beginning of November. (Please, no bone-in hams, as they have to be taken to a butcher for carving.)
No sooner will thanksgiving be over and the elves at Helping Hands will be collecting candy canes, toys for kids 12 and younger, underwear, coats, mittens, gloves, scarves, socks, shoes and boots. Gifts are distributed when Santa visits children at Helping Hands a few days before Christmas. Last year, 108 children enjoyed time with Mr. Claus.
For more information about helping with holiday needs, please contact Paul at 419-691-0613, ext. 2.
Not all teens and tweens have giving on their radar, but Amelia and Olivia Delaney consider it their responsibility. “It makes me feel good inside that people who wouldn’t get gifts will be able to receive them,” says Olivia. Her sister, Amelia, adds, “It lets them know that people who don’t know them do care about them.”
For the past three years, their family has chosen Catholic Charities’ programs as recipients of their generosity. Last year, Sonja (the girls’ mother), Amelia and Olivia pooled their giving funds to make Christmas special for two families through Project Bethlehem.
[singlepic id=62 w=320 h=240 float=right]The program matches sponsors – churches, businesses and individuals – with families who can’t afford to buy gifts. Recipients are Catholic Charities’ clients, many of whom have stayed at La Posada Family Emergency Shelter or Miriam House or have participated in other programs such as our Supportive Housing, Adult Advocacy or H.O.P.E. Food Pantry. Others may have received emergency assistance or services through the Family Connections program.
“I think it’s a neat project,” says Sonja. “It would be great if everyone could help a family. Not everyone has a family network that can help them out.” Her family will be sponsors again this year.
“We’ve always saved for a project,” says Sonja about their giving habits. “I’ve never really thought about it. It’s always been that way,” says Olivia.
“We have three places – spending, saving and giving,” Amelia, adds, speaking of where the girls place their allowance money.
Giving seems to be in the family’s genes. Speaking about her mother, Sonja says, “Regardless of what she had, she was always helping someone out. And she still does.”
Sponsors purchase and wrap gifts for parents and children. Wish lists from families often include coats, boots, towels, blankets and toys.
“Most of the presents for parents are necessities,” says Sonja. For a couple expecting a baby, they bought a winter jacket, gloves and hat for a father, clothes for a soon-to-beborn baby and household items. “It was fun to shop for baby clothes,” Sonja remembers.
Last year, they received an eleventh-hour call asking if they could help a second family with two young sons who had just become eligible for Project Bethlehem. “I couldn’t imagine those boys not having a Christmas,” says Sonja. So the ladies made it their mission to sponsor them as well.
If you would like to help a family through Project Bethlehem, in the Toledo area, contact Vickie Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org or (419) 244-6711, ext. 217; in Norwalk, Martha Hillman: email@example.com or (419) 668-3073; or in Mansfield, Laurie Hamrick: firstname.lastname@example.org or (419) 524-0733, ext. 226.
Barb Johnston relies on close to a dozen medications and oxygen assistance to help her get through the day. She battles high cholesterol, high blood pressure and kidney disease. While her doctor told her to eat low sodium and low fat foods, she is now taking her efforts to stay healthy a step further with the help of Catholic Charities’ new Wellness Works Project.
Along with more than 150 people who have participated since July, Barb has found help determining which particular foods are good and which are harmful for her health conditions.
“It’s very beneficial,” Barb says. “I’ve incorporated the information into my daily diet. The information I was given was very specific and outstanding. It lists all of the different types of food, such as those that have lower sodium versus higher sodium.”[singlepic id=61 w=320 h=240 float=right]
“I’m making better choices for myself,” she adds.
Catholic Charities launched the Wellness Works Project in response to a recent Richland County Community Health Assessment, which showed the most widespread health issues are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Other common conditions are digestive disorders, asthma and allergies.
The project helps Richland County residents better understand how their diet affects their health. Trained volunteers from the medical field interview clients and provide guidance in adopting healthy eating habits related to their health conditions. The goal is to help clients reduce dependency on medication and prevent the onset of further health problems.
“Each month when clients come in we’ll do a follow-up,” says Laurie Hamrick, case manager. “Did they reduce their weight? Go off their meds? Is their blood pressure or cholesterol lower?”
Future plans include nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations using ingredients from Catholic Charities’ H.O.P.E. Food Pantry. Hamrick anticipates the program could serve up to 500 people by the end of the year.
Catholic Charities would like to thank the generous donors in the Mansfield area who helped fund the Wellness Works Project. Special thanks goes to Earl Hawkins, who along with his wife Betty, co-founded Hawkins Markets.
Catholic Charities is also promoting wellness by asking people to donate food to the H.O.P.E. Pantry based on nutritional value. For a list of current needs at the pantry, please call 419-524-0733 or visit www.catholiccharitiesnwo.org.
I’ve come simply to tell you that God loves you with an infinite love.
– Pope Benedict XVI in a 2011 address to inmates of Rome’s Ribibbia prison
Larry is a clean-cut Catholic with a warm smile, sincere eyes and true passion for his faith. He’s a lector at his parish and a former inmate of the Allen Correctional Institute. He spent 10 years, eight months and 26 days in prison. He’s been abandoned by some friends and family members. When he was incarcerated, he felt guilt and shame. He agonized over whether he could ever be accepted in his hometown when he was released.
“When my world came crashing down around me, I knew where I needed to go. I was that lost sheep that needed to be found,” says Larry. He began attending weekly Mass when he was at the Lima Correctional Institute before being transferred to Allen. Then, at Allen, his quest for faith took root. Participating in Awareness Retreats supported by Catholic Charities gave him hope. “They were the first outside people to help, encourage and motivate me on my spiritual journey,” Larry says.
“They let us know there are people who see us as children of God. “They gave me such hope that people would be willing to include me. Hope is so important and so many people don’t have that when they’re in prison,” Larry explains. “
A lot of people didn’t have people to visit them. It was as close as they got to a visit from someone who cared about them.”
Prison is a place of hardened hearts, too. “You always have to be a tough guy in prison,” he says. Consequently, the retreats started with icebreakers that had the inmates “singing and twirling around.” Larry reveals, “I began to realize we don’t have a lot of opportunity to laugh. It lifted a burden when we just had an opportunity to be silly. We didn’t have to worry about being a tough guy for the first time in a long time. You could just be yourself.
“It’s hard to quantify what this does to guys,” Larry says. An especially powerful exercise aims to validate their dignity and worthiness. The men and retreat volunteers – one on one, face-to-face –rotated partners and shared compassion with phrases like, “When I look into your eyes I know you are forgiven, and when I look into your eyes I know Jesus loves you.”
“Tears start coming down and lips are quivering. These grown men weep because a lot of people don’t have people who care about them. It’s very emotional.”
Today, he serves this prison ministry by volunteering at Awareness Retreats, as does his wife. “God called me. I’m returning the service. I know I couldn’t have done it by myself,” he says.