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United Way of the Plains Resource Guides
United Way of the Plains Resource Guides
Once again, here we are a few weeks away from Christmas. Many have started shopping and are getting all the to do items checked off of our list. However, many of us are still looking at that list trying to figure out where to even begin. A very common question the members of SVdP get is "how can I help?" We love it when people come to us and ask what they can do to help others in the community. This time of year is unique because there are many opportunities, but it can also be overwhelming when faced with so much need. We have tried to compile a list of twelve ways to help that does not take a ton of time or money. We hope you find a way to help at least one of these worthy causes and that you find them worthwhile.
1. Interfaith Ministries - They have hosted Operation Holiday since 1961 and last year alone they served 11,706 people. They are running very low on donated food items. Distribution starts next week and they are 50,000 short of their goal. Items in greatest need are boxed cereal, peanut butter, boxed dinners, canned vegetables and fruits. Donations can be dropped off at: Operation Holiday Warehouse 6225 E. Kellogg from 10-6 on weekdays and 10-4 on Saturday. www.interfaith.org
2. Catholic Charities - Have a shoe box of old cell phones that you do not know what to do with? This is a great way to help women and children who are victims of abuse. Take your old cell phones, chargers, etc... to the Administration building next to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Go to the 3rd floor and ask for Julie. She will take your phone and make sure it is wiped clean for the women of Harbor House to use for emergencies. The phones will not be made operable for every day use; instead they will be programmed so they can call 911 in case of an emergency. If your phone is broken, bring it anyway! They have an agreement with a phone company that will pay for the broken phones and the money made goes back to help Harbor House. The administration building is located at 437 N. Topeka, the southwest corner of Central and Topeka.
3. WMOC - (Working Men of Christ Ministry) - This fantastic group helps those incarcerated to become faithful doers of God's Word. They help men released from prison find purpose in their life and the support they need to help them break the cycle. They run "Save Souls" thrift store. It helps fund the ministry and also enables people on a low or fixed income afford items they need. The store is located on the grounds of Word of Life's North campus located at 3811 N. Meridian. If you would like to donate dishes, clothing, or really anything, please contact Bob Smith at 785-285-2425. www.workingmenofchristministry.com
4. Guadalupe Clinic - We recently held a coat and blanket drive for this worthwhile cause and they can always use more. Can you imagine having a sick child and needing to see a doctor, but you are also out of food and need to go to a pantry? What if you only had enough gas to get you to one or the other? Which would you choose? Even though Guadalupe Clinic is a healthcare facility, they try to ease this burden by having some extra clothing, food and hygiene items available to clients. If you have used coats, blankets, gloves or sweats, please think about taking them to Guadalupe Clinic located at 940 S. St. Francis, 67211. Check the website for hours before you go: www.guadalupeclinic.com Also, if you go to website and click on newsletters, a wish list can be found on the back of the most recent edition.
5. TiWiconi Safe Haven (shelter for the mentally ill) - This is part of Interfaith Ministries and the work they do to help the mentally ill who are also chronically homeless is to be commended. Residents have to be diagnosed with a mental illness before they are admitted to this long-term shelter. Residents receive the medication and critical case management they will need in order to eventually live on their own. As you can image, this is no easy task for anybody involved. Most come with nothing and are so grateful for items dropped off. If you have Christmas decorations that are not being used, throw pillows, pictures, blankets, really any home decor, this is a great place to bring it. Each resident has their own room and they love to decorate it and make it their own. The shelter is staffed every day of the year and is open 24 hours a day. It is located at: 841 N. Broadway and staff can be reached at: 263-0006 or for more information, go to www.interfaith.org
6. Positive Directions - This organization helps our brothers and sisters living with AIDS. They try to make the everyday challenges of living with the disease easier by providing case managers. They provide "holiday boxes" to our brothers and sisters who really need a little extra joy over Christmas. They are requesting hats, gloves and scarves to place in the boxes. They can be new or gently used. They are including baked goods this year to give it a personal touch. The boxes are being put together next week, (December 15-19). Donations can be dropped off M-F from 9-5. They are located at 415 S. Commerce.
7. Michelle Martling felt it was her calling to help women who are trapped living on the streets. We refer to them as prostitutes, she refers to them as princesses. She has a house that is her home and she opens it up to women who are willing to escape the streets and start a new life. Some women choose to stay with her and begin a new life, sadly, others go back to the streets. She could really use a new crock pot and/electric skillet for the group home. The other night, she saw a girl with no shoes working on the streets, so she gave her slippers. So, any kind of slippers, hygiene items or fast food gift cards are greatly appreciated. www.247streetministry.com for more information. For the sake of keeping her house from being published, please take items to Blessed Sacrament parish office and mark "24/7."
8. Interfaith Family Inn - This building is located east of the Lord's Diner. Sadly, it is danger of closing which would be awful since it is the only other family shelter besides St. Anthony's Family Shelter. Our contact there said they could really use twin sheets and deodorant; the sheets can be used. This is also a great place to drop off any extra food you have left over from holiday parties! The Inn is always staffed. 320 E. Central www.interfaith.org
9. St. Anthony Family Shelter - This is the other family shelter in Wichita. They provide referral for employment, alcohol and drug counseling, health care and education to their clients. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, with the help of many parishioners, sponsors at least one hot breakfast a month. The shelter is always in need of hygiene items, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diaper rash ointment, lotion, shampoo and conditioner to name a few. Donations can be dropped off at 256 Ohio Street and more information can be found at www.catholicdioceseofwichita.org
10. Our Daily Bread - To most of our children the Christmas break is a fun and exciting time, all children do not share that joy. We have seen firsthand the dread some children have for all the time off school because that means they will be hungry. When school is out, the students do not receive their hot breakfast and lunch that is provided at the school they attend. The pantry is running low on canned fruits and vegetables right now and can always use peanut butter and canned meats. Take a bag of groceries directly to the pantry located at 2825 S. Hillside and help feed your fellow brothers and sisters. www.catholicdioceseofwichita.org. Their phone number is 264-8344, you can always call before you go.
11. Union Rescue Mission - This is another organization that helps the homeless and working poor. Items really needed right now are anti-fungal foot spray, canned meats and baby formula, and they always need new or used men's clothing. You can drop off your donations M-F from 8-4 or Saturday's from 8-11:30. You can call 687-4673 or go to the website for more information. www.urmwichita.org.
12. Stepstone/Dear Neighbor - These organizations really get into the trenches and deal with abuse and poverty head on. The offices are located close to the Sister's of St. Joseph Convent at 1329 S. Bluffview. They are very low on small, one quart packages of powdered milk and toilet paper. They also will take any canned or boxed food and will distribute it to their clients. Donations can be dropped off M-F between the hours of 8-5. Go to www.dearneighbor.org to learn more about both Stepstone and Dear Neighbor.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul hopes this list helps you find a place to give a little or give a lot. Many of these places are safe enough to also take you children to so they can see first hand where their donations are going. As always, we thank you for your support and wish you a very blessed Christmas.
Something happened to us and it was a first. We had asked for cups and towels for Harbor House and thanks to the wonderful parishioners at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, we received several. After delivering the items, we received more towels, but they weren't really in the condition for the shelters to get much use out of. However, we did not want to throw them away. We felt an obligation to put these old towels to good use. After all, that is what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul does; we take items and find the best place possible for them.
As time went on, the towel pile grew and no really great idea had come to any of our minds. One hot afternoon, a member of SVdP was stopped at a red light in downtown Wichita. Like all of us do, we tend to check our phones or look around and find something to stare at until the light turns green. Crossing the street was a homeless man carrying what appeared to be all his belongings on his back. His skin was flushed and he was sweating. The parishioner wished she could have passed something out her window to help the man cool off. A hat, or refreshing bottle of water would have been ideal. Or, what about a wash cloth soaked in ice, cold water? Maybe that is what should be done with the towels we have accumulated.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is known for being very diverse in the programs we support and offer, but this is one thing we have never done. The idea of standing around in downtown Wichita handing out ice cold towels is almost a comical picture. Is this something that is needed? Would it be appreciated? Would we look like idiots hanging out with our coolers full of water and towels? Many times you can't get the answer to something until you try it. So, we decided to do just that, give it a chance.
On occasion, we join forces with a group called Friends of Friends. They provide a meal every Sunday to approximately 150-200 homeless or poverty level people living in Wichita. We have provided meals among other donated items for the people that gather every Sunday afternoon. The line for the meal can get long; we figured this would probably be the best time to hand out the towels.
On a Sunday in August, it was predicted to be close to 100 degrees. We figured this would be a good day to fill up the coolers and hit the parks. We had 200 towels ready to be soaked and handed out. We thought we would maybe have 50 people actually want the towels and we would be finished within an hour; we were wrong. It was almost embarrassing how thankful people were. We saw mother's putting the cold cloths on their children and men and women lined up to get “their own” ice cold relief. Our doubts quickly faded as we tried to replenish the coolers as fast as possible. Word spread fast and soon many were coming to us asking if we were the people with the ice cloths. One woman placed the freezing wash rag on her dog before putting it on her own neck. She wanted to make sure her best friend was taken care of. We saw grown adults turn into children within a matter of minutes as they chased each other, putting ice down backs and squeezing water over each other's heads. These people, who are either a victim of poor decision making or circumstances, were laughing and for a brief moment in time had a break from their harsh daily reality. As we looked around at the chaotic water fights and the people waiting in line with towels draped over their heads, we noticed a few of the homeless hiding behind cars and trees; they were using the cloths to bathe.
Never in a million years did we foresee the different reactions or realize how something so simple could turn into such a luxury. Oddly enough, I think the two volunteers passing out the wash cloths got more out of it than the recipients. It is not every day you get to experience such gratitude and see so many smiles all because of ice water and wash cloths.
You can feel the excitement in the air because summer is here! School is out and many families will use the next few months taking trips and making memories together. Some people might even use this time to knock a few things off their “bucket list.” The Society of St. Vincent de Paul came up with our own summer “bucket list” of things to do before the summer ends. So, go ahead and live on the edge and see how many you can do or make some of your own.
1. Clean out that closet, garage or storage room you have been meaning to get to. Set aside things you don't need and are willing to donate.
2. Call Meals on Wheels and volunteer to deliver meals with a friend, family or your children. (Call 267-0122, you can volunteer one time or several times.)
3. Drop off new or used cups to Blessed Sacrament parish office. Harbor House is a shelter for abused women and children and they are in need of cups to use with their meals.
4. Check out the Go Board located in the back of the church or in Bishop's Hall. Find something that interests you.
5. Smile at a stranger.
6. Have a lemonade stand with your children. Donate some of the money to a charity of their choice.
7. Prepare a breakfast for the residents at St. Anthony Shelter; look in the bulletin for details.
8. Help with the hygiene drive in August.
9. Call an old friend.
10. Call St. Anthony's Family Shelter and offer to provide a treat for their Family Game Night. It is held on Friday's in the game room. 264-7233
11. Contribute to the Blessed Sacrament kid's weekend food program. Food of the month is always listed in the church bulletin.
12. Visit somebody in a retirement home.
13. Attend a Father Kapaun Mass. They are held the first Wednesday of every month at the Spiritual Life Center. The Mass time is 7:00 p.m., chapel is located at the far East end of the complex.
14. Pass out bottles of cold water at Naftzger Park or in the parking lot of Open Door Resource Center located at 2nd and Topeka.
15. Donate new, round, table cloths of any color or new Crayola markers to the Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program. They can be dropped off between the hours of 8-4, Monday through Friday at 5920 W. Central.
16. Donate new or used wash cloths for SVdP to hand out to our homeless brothers and sisters this summer. We will soak them in water and keep in coolers to distribute on 100+ days. Better yet.....join us when we do this.
17. Keep the shampoos, soaps, etc...from your hotel rooms this summer. Donate them to the August hygiene drive.
18. Check out the 24/7 website and see how one woman in Wichita is making a difference to women living on the street. www.247streetministry.com
19. Forgive somebody.
20. Do you know a person that struggles financially? Drop off a grocery bag of toilet paper, paper towels, tooth paste, soap, laundry detergent, brushes or basically any toiletry item. (Food stamps do not cover any of the above.) For fun, place it on their porch, ring the door bell and hide; try to catch a glimpse of their reaction, it will be priceless.
21. Donate new or used twin sheets to Interfaith Inn located at 320 E. Central.
22. When shopping for “going back to school” supplies, grab a few extra to donate.There are many back to school supply drives that will be more than happy to receive the donations.
23. Be kind.
24. Have your children draw a picture or write a letter for our military men and women. Take them to the parish office and we will take it from there.
25. Accompany us on a Sunday afternoon serving a meal to the poor......then try not to judge the people you are serving. It is more difficult than it sounds.
26. Clean up a mess that you didn't make.
27. Hold the door for somebody.
28. Catholic Charities Immigration Services is in need of new children's books and toys for their waiting area. They are located at 437 N. Topeka and are open from 8-4, Monday through Friday. You can call 269-3900 for more information.
29. Summer is busy; make it a point to have family time.
30. Be thankful for what you have.
We hope you have a wonderful summer and as always, we thank you for your continued support.
Many of you know or have heard of Bob Johnson. He founded a street ministry that is active every day of the year. His group is open to anyone on Sunday afternoons. They meet at 1:30 p.m. at the tennis court parking lot in Riverside Park. Anybody is welcome to come help, so as you can imagine, it can be a bit chaotic, but it is amazing how it just all falls together. The first 30 minutes consist of a prayer, figuring out who has brought what and getting the hot meal organized. There are some homeless people that live at the park or under the bridge a short distance away. Once they have been served, the entire group caravans over to Nafzger Park and this is where the majority of the work begins. Trunks of cars open up to reveal used coats, scarfs, hats, gloves, socks, boots, toiletries and many other items. A pick-up truck hatch is opened and the homeless line up to receive a hot meal donated by individuals.
Several members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have gotten involved and participate in these Sunday rituals. I think it is safe to say that we have all had our eyes opened up to what it is like out there. Of course, you have the people who have a substance abuse problem; some just can't seem to get it together. They are addicted to alcohol/drugs and use it as an escape from their life. I admit, they can be pretty fun to talk to, but the laughs are a mask to a much deeper pain; a pain that hopefully most of us will never know. Sadly, you see many Veterans, mostly from the Vietnam war. The ones I have spoken with talk a great deal about their younger years, but once the point in their life comes up that they entered the war, they tend to stop talking about themselves and eat quietly. You almost get the feeling that they think their life stopped during the Vietnam War and now they just exist and aren't truly alive. The eye-opener for all SVdP members who have spent a Sunday or two at the parks is how many working poor come to these events. The first few times I saw cars pull up and people get out to receive a new coat or a meal, I was a little put off. I thought to myself, “if you have a car, surely you have a home and don't really need to be here." I have never been more wrong in my life. I think these are the people who need this service the most. Many of these people have jobs and are doing what we as society have told them to do and that is “get a job.” Due to their jobs and the fact they work evenings, nights or weekends, they can't get to the pantries during working hours, or the one car they have is with the working adult while the other adult is at home with their children; this makes it impossible to get to the Lord's Diner. They make too much money to qualify for aid, but not enough to make ends meet. A lot of their money is tied up in high interest rate loans because they made the horrible mistake of going to “one of those places” for a cash advance to pay a gas or electric bill. Thus, the vicious circle begins and continues for most of them. While this is going on, their children see it and accept it as a way of life and will have a very difficult time breaking the cycle. I have no doubt that many of them made horrible decisions and would do anything to have the opportunity to do things over again, but none of us get to turn back the clock, so we are all left to play the hand we are dealt.
We see a man who comes for the meal, but more so because he wants people to talk to. He definitely has a colorful past. He joined a circus at the age of 13 after getting kicked out of his house by his abusive stepmother. He married at the age of 14 and eventually both his wife and daughter died. He turned to alcohol for comfort and is struggling to keep it together; he has been sober for 2 years. He has a cat, an apartment, odd jobs and this Sunday group; this is his life.
I think the most tragic story I have heard so far was from a man who told me about how horrible it is to be sitting on a park bench or on a sidewalk and have person upon person walk by him and look the other way. Trying to find the positive in something bad, I said something like at least they were not throwing things or cursing at him. His response sent a chill up my spine. He said he would much rather be cursed at or spit upon because at least then he was being acknowledged.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul would like to thank the parish for its continued support of Breakfast at Anthony's. A couple of weekends ago, families gathered on a Friday evening to prepare a meal for the 42 residents currently living at the shelter. The majority of the people we feed are children. It is so heartwarming to see the families start their day with a hot breakfast that they rarely, if ever receive. If you have not participated in this opportunity yet, but would like to, please watch the bulletin for details.
It was just a little tree that somebody had sitting around in a storage room. She probably can't even remember the last time it was out during Christmas time. It used to be decorated with little strands of beads and lights along with some really cute, tiny ornaments. However, through the years and moves, the ornaments, beads and lights disappeared one by one and just the tree remained. When she dug it out to use for a Society of St. Vincent de Paul project, she had no idea how busy the little tree would be.
Members of Society of St. Vincent de Paul decided it would be nice to not only adopt some elderly people in the area, but also make gift baskets for the retired priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph. When everything was said and done, we figured 30-35 presents total would be brought to the parish office; we were way off on our estimate. As a parish, 53 individuals were adopted and received a present with their name on it. In addition, 25 homeless clients from the Guadalupe Clinic were provided gifts and 50 presents for the gift baskets were donated. As you read this, you can see that the pulse of the parish is very strong when it comes to showing gratitude to our retired priests and sisters and we have a soft heart for the elderly in our community. While nobody can argue that it is a wonderful feeling to help make Christmas happy for a child, it can be just as rewarding, if not more so, to help an elderly person. A few stories have already made it back to us regarding reactions when volunteers delivered the presents. One lady kept saying, “Oh, it's you! It is you! You are here with my Christmas present. I was hoping you would really come!” A caseworker from Sheridan Village e-mailed wanting an address to send thank you notes because the residents can't quit talking about their new gifts. A representative from Meals on Wheels delivered a present to a client who is a paraplegic. He said the man's eyes lit up as he held the present in his hands and remarked that he was going to save it until Christmas morning so he would have something to open. He couldn't wait to see what was inside of it. I am sure the stories will keep coming in and we will do our best to get as many as we can in the bulletin.
For many of these people the fact that they received an actual present with their name on it made it so special. But, something more important was given this past Christmas morning; it is something that no amount of money can buy. Love. It might not be the love that most of us are used to, but it is the same none the less. It is difficult for most of us to wrap our heads around, but I can only imagine going days, months or even years without receiving a card, gift, anything other than a bill with my name on it. The feeling must have been overwhelming for some of them.
As the stories mentioned above reached me, it reminded me of a favorite Mother Teresa story that is mentioned in numerous articles and books; it is the story of the lamp. Mother Teresa once visited a man in Melbourne, Australia who lived in a messy room. As she cleaned his living area, she discovered a beautiful lamp. It was obvious it had not been used in years and she asked why he did not light it. He explained that he did not need it and nobody visited him, so there was no need to light it. Mother Teresa asked him if her sisters came to visit, would he light it. He replied that he would if he heard a human voice. Sometime later he sent a message; the lamp she lit in his life is still on.
Because of our wonderful parishioners, many lamps were lit Christmas morning and our hope is they burn for a long time. Thank you for your kindness, support and generosity.
Helping the Homeless, Blessed Sacrament Society of St Vincent de Paul
Blessed Sacrament's Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference is organizing two events to help feed the homeless in February, in support of Holy Savior Parish, which is hosting the Diocesan Warming Souls Homeless Shelter. We will be making sack lunches (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with snacks) for about 80 homeless people, on Sunday, February 19 (11 a.m.), and again, Sunday, February 26 (11 a.m.). We will meet at the Holy Savior gym, and create a "production line" to put together the lunches. We asked for volunteers via the Parish bulletin in January, and had a great response, as always, from Parishioners.
Blessed Sacrament SVdP and other Parishioners made lunches for the homeless last year, when Warming Souls was held at the Cathedral gym. However, with the renovation going on at the Cathedral, Warming Souls was moved to Holy Savior’s gym this year.
The group had a lot of fun last year, and it only took about an hour to complete our task.
2011 Blessed Sacrament Warming Souls Volunteers
This year, we will bring our own food (bread, peanut butter, jelly, snacks, etc.) to the gym to prepare the lunches. The food will be paid for by the Blessed Sacrament Society of St. Vincent de Paul, via our generous benefactors.
As a part of the Warming Souls project, the homeless we will be helping are allowed to stay at the gym each night, but then they must leave each morning. Therefore, the lunches we will be making will be handed out to each homeless person as they leave the shelter, so they will have food during the day.
Thanks to Blessed Sacrament for helping the homeless in Wichita.
Breakfast at Anthony's began as a way to help the shelter over the summer months when giving is traditionally down. Our hope was that it would give our parish opportunities to give over the summer and aid the residents. We were thrilled when the response was overwhelmingly positive and continues to be that way.
This is a unique program because of its flexibility; the following is how parishioners have chosen to participate. We have had groups of women get together on a Friday night to prepare the meal for the next morning. Sometimes, entire families get together and the children have been able to participate. Recently, even single families have gotten in on the action. The date is chosen by you. When the preparation is complete, either a member of SVdP or one of the people who helped prepare the meal take it to the shelter. (It is open 24 hours a day, so there is no specific time we have to have it delivered.) We let the employees know when the food needs to be put into the oven and any other details that need to be discussed. The following morning, approximately 3 volunteers arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 and serve breakfast. We are always finished by 9:00 a.m. at the very latest. We never have clean up because that is part of the requirements of living there, they all have responsibilities and kitchen duty is one of those.
The shelter holds a maximum of 50 people; sometimes over half the residents are children. You see a little bit of everything. People come through the line very happy and grateful, some will make the effort to come thank you after they have eaten and some will even ask for recipes so they can make the items for their children when their life is more stable. You also see the other side of people too. There have been times you look out across the dining room and a parent is sitting with their children with a look of defeat and fear on their face. Some will barely utter a word to you and this is where the challenge comes for the volunteers to realize that we are there to give without being thanked. We give for the sake of giving. As much as we try to put ourselves in their place sometimes, it is impossible to imagine having all your possessions in one room and calling a homeless shelter home. This is a short term shelter, it is a transition to more long-term living. They work on skills to help find work and receive more direction to get their life on track. St. Anthony's Family Shelter is not a place where people are enabled; it is a place where responsibility is taught.
We encourage you to join us in this opportunity and learn more about what you can do. To learn more about the shelter, go to www.catholicdioceseofwichita.org. Click in the ministries and offices tab, then on the drop down menu, choose Catholic Charities, scroll down and you will St. Anthony's Family Shelter. Also, please continue to look in the bulletin for upcoming opportunities. We hope you join us.
Cots for the homeless, at Holy Savior gym
Thanks to the group of volunteers who helped make sack lunches today (2/19/2012) at Holy Savior gym, as a part of the Warming Souls project. Nineteen people volunteered their time, so we were able to make 90 sack lunches in a little over one half hour. Each sack lunch contained a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a package of crackers/cookies, a bag of chips, and an apple.
Bonnie Toombs (Diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Director) and Father Billinger expressed their deep appreciation for the team's effort.
The lunches will be distributed to the homeless men tomorrow morning (2/20/2012), as they leave the Shelter for the day.
The event was sponsored (and paid for) by the Blessed Sacrament Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Volunteers from the Blessed Sacrament Society of St. Vincent de Paul included Amy Rishell (and her two daughters, Chandra, and Elenor), Paul Rothermel, JoAnn Robertson, Bob Donley, and Jeannie Dillard (and her two daughters, Claire and Katherine). Other volunteers included Johnny and Michele Riter, Claire Daniels, Kristen, Chad, Logan and Ayden Jimenez, Kenny and Norma Schmidt, and Sally McGrath. Addtionally, Yvonne Burgess made two trips to Sam's to buy the food/supplies.
Volunteers who helped make sack lunches, 2/19/2012
We fall between the cracks - we make too much for most government or charity assistance, but we don't make enough to subsist. Because of all this, we live a precarious existence. Often, we have to make the choice between buying groceries, getting our medications, paying our utilities and putting gas in the car. Since my husband and I both drive older vehicles with poor gas mileage, sometimes we have to ration our gas so we'll have enough to last to the next payday. There have been times when we could have gotten food from God's Food Pantry or eaten a meal at The Lord's Diner, but we didn't have enough fuel to get there. On rare occasions, we have kept our kids home from school because we lacked the gas to get them there and back. Unexpected expenses, while inconvenient for most, can be devastating for us. We live in fear that a car or appliance might break down, that the kids will have a growth spurt and need new clothes or that they will get a bad grade for not being able to buy a book or get the supplies needed for a school project.
The Blessed Sacrament Saint Vincent de Paul Society has been such a blessing to us. When we have had nowhere else to turn, the SVDP has given us material help as well as hope. The weekend food bag program, in particular, has been a lifesaver for us. Our food budget doesn't allow for anything but the bare necessities and sometimes even then we make hard choices. When I learned about the program and that bags would be provided to all my children, whether they were Blessed Sacrament students or not, I was humbled. I told my teenage daughter about the program and she began to cry. "That is so nice," she said. "I'm so glad someone's thinking about us." My kids look forward to Fridays like they are Christmas. It's always exciting to see what kinds of food the kids will get each week. Since each bag is different, it's fun to watch the kids bargain and trade each other for the items they like best. Each bag contains some snack food, some breakfast food and some self-serve items that can be either snacks or meals. The weekend food bag program gives my husband and I peace of mind in the knowledge that the kids won't go hungry. It also gives our family some predictability in a time of uncertainty."
Coat and Blanket Drive
Our coat and blanket drive has come to an end. Once again, we have been amazed at the generosity of our parishioners. As of today, you have donated 40 blankets, 50 sweaters, 132 sweats, 140 coats and several winter accessories. Needless to say, because of people cleaning out drawers and closets, we were able to make substantial donations to Operation Holiday and the Guadalupe Clinic. Through the years, many of us have pulled out clothing, food and toys that we did not need anymore and have given them away. Some items we might toss to the side without a second thought and others we will stare at for a minute or two and try to justify keeping it. For some reason, certain items are difficult to give away. We just want to hang on to them. Sometimes we might wonder about the person who will be receiving it. What kind of life have they had? Are they young or old? Is this “old” blanket or coat going to turn into a prized possession? We will probably never get the answers to these types of questions.
This year, we kept some of the items donated and stored them. One night, we had a desperate call from a parishioner that had no gas; it had not been turned back on yet and they did not have enough clothing or blankets to stay warm that night. A Society member immediately took several items over and had the family try on the coats and left blankets; they were so grateful. Another parishioner has had a very rough year and was worried her 20 year old coat would not make it another winter. A Society member gave her several to try on. It is an amazing feeling to watch a persons eyes light up when they have found their “new” coat.
For those who donated to the drive, we can't thank you enough. You will probably never know who was the recipient of your coat, but take comfort in knowing it might be warming a homeless person as he waits in line for food or the blanket you donated might be keeping several children warm as they all share a bed. The item you donated might even be owned by the person sitting next to you in Mass.
“Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
St. Francis of Assisi
The history of The Church of the Blessed Sacrament is intertwined with the Sisters of St. Joseph beginning back in 1927 when the first Mass was celebrated at Mount St. Mary's, the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1928, the sisters staffed the school exclusively until the 1955-56 school year when lay teachers were first employed. In 1958, the new convent was built for sisters teaching at the school; it is the current day middle school. The Dockum House at 124 N. Roosevelt had served as the convent for the sisters; it now became the rectory. When you visit the older part of the convent, you will see pictures of sisters in Blessed Sacrament classrooms with students. As you can see, we are a part of their history as they are a part of ours.
Even though many parishioners have kept in touch with several of the sisters, our new generation of Blessed Sacrament students do not have the exposure to this way of life. A parishioner had one of her daughters in Mass and two sisters were sitting behind them. The little girl kept turning to look at them and finally the mom asked her why. She replied that she wanted to know if they were real. This question confused the mother and she asked her daughter what she meant. The little girl had only seen sisters on television and books and did not realize that women actually could be sisters or nuns and dedicate their life to Jesus. Our children see our wonderful priests on a weekly, if not daily basis. Sadly, the same cannot be said for how often they are exposed to women who have chosen a religious vocation.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has started a program for individual visits, parish get togethers and holiday parties with the children. All of these opportunities have proven to be a great success and benefit both the sisters and our parish family. We welcome you to partake in all our activities at the convent and hope you will reach out and join us in this stewardship opportunity. Please watch the bulletin for upcoming events and we hope to see you there!
Many people have asked members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul what it is like to go on a home visit. Even though each one of us would have a different answer, there are many mutual feelings that we walk away with. Of course, many cases are sad, disturbing or down right disgusting. However, many are filled with hope, the promise of better days and gratitude. Every visit we perform is confidential, but here is an example of a visit performed on a Sunday afternoon in late September.
Two of us went on a call to see if we could help a single Mom who is buried in bills. After reading the history, the dread began to sink in because visits like this have the question of “where do we even begin?” before we walk through the door. We are greeted by “Rosa” and a lady who has been helping her over the past year. Rosa has 4 children ranging in age from 12 to 19. She is illiterate and her oldest son has developmental disabilities. We sit with Rosa in her home that has not had air conditioning in over a month because she ran out of money and could not pay it. She is also 4 months behind on rent and has a $230 gas bill to pay before it can be turned back on. There is almost no food in the house because they have nowhere to store it without it going bad. There is a gas station nearby for them to purchase snacks with the little money they have . In order to save on gas, they make very few trips to the grocery store that is further away. Rosa has a new job making $9.00 an hour. She has been applying for help to pay her bills, but since she is employed now, she is getting turned down because she makes too much money. Her oldest son is now employed at a fast food restaurant and the second oldest child is in school and works part time.
She is determined that her children will not end up like her and is fighting to make a better life. She is blessed to have a very understanding landlord that is willing to work with her. She and her children keep the house very clean and are so thankful to not live in their prior residence in which 17 people lived together. Rosa is also relieved to be out of an abusive relationship; both she and her children were abused. As we sit there looking at all the bills, we promise to get some Dillon's gift cards to her to help with gas. We leave her the names and hours of all food pantries and directions to the Lord's Diner. We tell her we will get back to her as soon as we can.
We call Westar and find out she has to pay nearly $600 to get electricity turned back on. This is where our common sense has to kick in. The landlord has been very generous, but he might not be that way in a week or so. If we pay the gas or electricity bill, what good will that do if she is evicted? If she has no home, then she will have no need for anything dealing with the property. She is definitely trying and has a job, so we want to do all we can to keep her on this path. We decide to advise our group to pay $500 for a month of rent. We also bring over bread, peanut butter, honey and bananas so they can make sandwiches. (None of those items need refrigeration.) We make sure she is aware of all the information she will need to go to Our Daily Bread on Saturday to get food for her kids. We will call ahead of time to make sure they do not give her meat or anything that will spoil. We give her toiletries since food stamps can't be used to purchase toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, etc...She is worried about cold nights approaching. We tell her about our coat, sweats and blanket drive coming up and promise to pull some for her and the children and bring them to her house.
Not every visit is like this. Sometimes people just need to be pointed to the right resources, some need food, a bus pass or a few bills paid. Every case is different and every situation unique. We try to keep an open mind, yet not enable people. Most importantly, we try to treat others as we would like to be treated. Thank you for your support as we try to help people like Rosa and her children have a better tomorrow.
At that point, the Society’s Conference Presidents agreed that the Council would provide funding to Senior Services to cover the cost of weekend meals. Additionally, the Council agreed to provide volunteeres to deliver the meals, 52 weekends per year. The Wichita Council of SVdP consists of over ten Catholic parishes (Conferences) in the Wichita-Hutchinson metropolitan area. Therefore, Blessed Sacrament's involvement is to deliver meals about four weekends per year.
"A picture of me and my family delivering Meals on Wheels", by Jillian Adams, 2012
Meals on Wheels is a program administered by Senior Services of Sedgwick County, and it provides meals to the homebound. About 40 years ago, the Wichita Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul learned that there wasn’t enough funding for meals to be delivered to those determined to have the greatest need for weekend meals. This meant that many homebound elderly or physically handicapped clients would probably struggle to receive a nutritious meal every weekend.
The fire that tore through Ashley Lane Apartment complex devastated people who were already struggling in their daily life. Many of these families are refugees and lost everything they owned. The fire displaced over 70 people who will have to start all over again. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is very blessed that we were able to help these people through other organizations. We are working with the Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry, His Helping Hands and USD 259. Our liaison with the Wichita school district was in desperate need of a bed for a mother and her six year old child. Through the generosity of our parishioners, we were able to locate a bed for them and two additional beds for families who may need them. The victims of the fire have a long road ahead of them. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they put their lives back together.
September is poverty awareness month. Most people reading this article are living a fairly comfortable life. However, as we go about our daily routine, poverty surrounds us. It is impossible to drive across Wichita and not pass numerous people living in poverty. Sometimes it is obvious, such as when you see people pushing shopping carts full of belongings or sleeping on cardboard. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes we overlook the people we work with or the students our children attend school with. It is a sobering thought, but very much a reality. The pictures posted with this article were taken by a Society of St. Vincent de Paul member. The beds are located under the Seneca Street Bridge; this is home to a few people. The second image is a photo of a Blessed Sacrament student giving a peanut butter and jam sandwich to a homeless man who lives in downtown Wichita. The picture is simple; she is providing nourishment to a man who is struggling and hungry, but look closer, there is more to it. With this simple act of kindness, she is letting him know people care and that somebody thinks he is worthy to be fed and cared for. And, if you look really hard, you will see the most beautiful part of all; a child of God reaching out to another child of God. As always, we are eternally grateful to the parishioners of Church of the Blessed Sacrament for their generosity.