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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 19, 2005VOL. 43, NO. 16Oakland, CA

Local Catholics mobilize Katrina aid

Janet Glubetich is a new Catholic. She is also a graduate of Just Faith, a formation program in social justice. She put her faith and training together within hours of the Katrina disaster and began mobilizing St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon to respond to the horror she saw unfolding in New Orleans.

She quickly learned that Kellye French of neighboring St. Isidore Parish in Danville was also collecting food, clothing and personal care items for the hurricane’s victims. The parish St. Vincent de Paul Society had made contact with fellow Vincentians in Houston where thousands of evacuees were living in the Astrodome.

Soon the two women, the Vincentians and scores of others had begun a relief effort that spanned both parishes and neighboring communities, joining local Catholics throughout the diocese who responded to the crisis with an outpouring of aid.

Schools collected clothing and money and opened their doors to displaced students, and Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland donated beds and sent staff members to provide first-hand help in Louisiana. Others have come together in prayer for the victims.

As the joint effort by Glubetich and French got underway at St. Isidore and St. Joan of Arc, the county St. Vincent de Paul Society parked a truck at each parish to receive the items that began pouring in.

A local company donated use of a semi-truck, which was quickly filled with donations, arranged in labeled boxes. It left Danville on Sept. 5 and arrived in Houston two days later. The goods were unloaded at a St. Vincent de Paul site for distribution to evacuees.

Across the diocese in Richmond, Dorothy Stewart was also compelled to help. She phoned the principal at Our Mother of Mercy School in Houston’s Fifth Ward and learned that more than 20 new students would soon be arriving at the school, displaced from their homes by Katrina. The kids needed school clothes – uniforms, underwear and clean socks.

Stewart also contacted St Francis Xavier School in Baton Rouge and learned that they, too, were accepting students from New Orleans.

Next, she approached the principal of Berkeley’s School of the Madeleine, where her daughter is an eighth grader, about organizing a uniform drive. Then she and two other eighth-grade moms – Kelly McVay and Mara Smith— got to work. Using their own resources and generous offers by employers and businesses, the women, with the help of other moms and students, succeeded in filling and shipping 40 large boxes.

Among the items were 670 pairs of socks, 260 uniform shirts, 300 uniform pants and 25 uniform skirts and jumpers. Stewart said the items will be shared with other Baton Rouge and Houston Catholic schools that have also received evacuees.

Meanwhile, at St. Bernard School in East Oakland, principal Kathy Gannon-Briggs was making room for three new students who had driven with their family from New Orleans to the home of an uncle. They entered school with new backpacks, filled with supplies, donated by their new classmates.

At neighboring St. Elizabeth Elementary School, the students were busy collecting funds as part of the National Catholic Education Association’s effort to get at least $1 from every Catholic school child in the nation. The fourth graders were determined to bring in as many pennies as they could find.

Across the street at St. Elizabeth High, the school’s charity club was also collecting funds while administrators look for a Gulf Coast school that can use their help. Principals at Carondelet High in Concord and Moreau Catholic in Hayward were doing the same.

Likewise, students in three local Lasallian schools (St. Mary’s College in Moraga, St. Mary’s High in Berkeley and De La Salle in Concord) have joined in “Bridges to the Bayou,” a Christian Brothers’ campaign to aid at least three Lasallian schools in Louisiana that were devastated by the storm and floods.

At St. Felicitas School in San Leandro, the student council sponsored a fundraising effort that has already yielded more than $2,200 for hurricane victims. Students at St. Clement School in Hayward paid for the privilege of “free dress” and donated the funds for disaster aid.

Local Catholics have also provided practical hands-on help to exhausted relief workers. Three staff members of Oakland’s Mercy Retirement and Care Center –Mercy Sister Patty Creedon, administrator; Jean Moore, a nurse practitioner, and Mercy Sister Lenore Greene, a social worker — have flown to Columbia, Louisiana, to give staff at Haven Nursing Center a much-needed break in caring for patients evacuated from New Orleans.

Six nursing homes in Columbia received up to 110 new patients and were desperately looking for hospital beds, said Kristine Watson, Mercy’s director of community relations. So Mercy pitched in and purchased 18 for quick delivery to Haven.

The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose have offered 15 rooms for displaced religious women who need assisted living care. They are also ready to receive religious in formation programs disrupted by the hurricane.

Throughout the Oakland Diocese, Catholics have come together to pray for the Katrina survivors and to take up collections for Catholic Charities USA.

St. Charles Parish in Livermore hosted an interfaith prayer service. St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales in Oakland organized a benefit concert of Vietnamese music.

At St. Leo Parish in Oakland, the social ministry group collected notes of sympathy and prayer to be sent to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Houston for distribution to survivors. Parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes reached deep into their pockets and raised more than $5,000 in one Sunday.

Several pastors with parishioners who are Gulf Coast natives organized a Sept. 15 meeting at Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker Church to share information on how to help arriving evacuees. Catholic Charities and the Red Cross were on hand to offer their expertise.


Children from St. Isidore Parish in Danville help load a St. Vincent de Paul truck with donations for Katrina evacuees now living in Houston.
CHRIS DUFFEY PHOTO

This woman prays for victims of Hurricane Katrina during an interfaith service, Sept. 8, at St. Charles Church in Livermore.
GREG TARCZYNSKI PHOTO

 

 


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