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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 3, 2005VOL. 43, NO. 17Oakland, CA

Parishes continue to aid victims of hurricanes

Local parishes and families are reaching out with donations of money, practical help and prayerful support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina who have fled to the East Bay in search of shelter.

“It’s so gratifying because we have parish volunteers coming in,” said Millie Burns, director of planning and program development at Catholic Charities of the East Bay. Burns said some 30 families have come to CCEB for help so far, and 17 parishes have volunteered to adopt one family or more.

Catholic Charities has also trained 20 volunteers to work with the displaced families, according to Wanica Means, coordinator of the agency’s volunteer program. They are prepared to direct the evacuees to resources they need to rebuild their lives.

The East Bay families “self-evacuated,” Burns said, coming here on their own to stay with family members. Some large, extended families have taken in a dozen or even 20 people, she said, and these new arrivals are looking for housing of their own.

Once they have found living quarters, their greatest need is financial assistance for basics such as furniture, linen and kitchen equipment. CCEB will be providing some funds for these start-up costs through money provided by Catholic Charities USA, an anonymous donor, and individual donations.

Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of St. Columba Parish in Oakland and administrator of St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley, said he spent $800 at Costco buying household items for a family, adopted by St. Joseph the Worker, that is moving into an apartment.

St. Columba and St. Benedict Parish in Oakland are deeply involved in helping evacuees, Burns said, because several of their members have taken in relatives. St. Anne Parish in Byron has adopted two families, she said. St. Bonaventure in Concord has been assigned one family, and CCEB is matching other parishes with families in need.

Father Landeza said that during a meeting held at St. Joseph the Worker, recent arrivals from the Gulf Coast, their relatives and volunteers shared information on needs and resources. He has asked St. Columba parishioners to consider forming a partnership with a parish damaged by the storm, possibly with St. Peter in Pascagoula, Miss., which was “completely destroyed.”

Parishes also responded generously to an appeal from Catholic Charities USA. Many sent funds directly to the main office in Alexandria, Va., but others directed theirs to CCEB, which passed them on to the national office. Adam See, director of development for CCEB, said he received about $80,000 from a handful of parishes for CCUSA.

Schools and parishes alike responded to the appeal. Holy Rosary School in Antioch collected over $1,200; St. Felicitas School in San Leandro took in $2,458; students at Holy Spirit in Fremont raised over $6,640 in a “free dress” day; Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Fremont raised $1,000 from a “Bizarre Bazaar”; and at St. Leo the Great School in Oakland a $3 jean day amassed $900 for hurricane victims while students also planned a collection drive of toys, books and games for children in Baton Rouge shelters.

St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch is collecting furniture, kitchenware, linens and other household items for three families who have relocated to their city; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood donated $22,043 to CCUSA from a special collection; St. Bonaventure in Concord collected more than $38,000 and also donated $2,368 from a CD sale to CCUSA, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army; St. Perpetua Parish in Lafayette donated $10,558 to CCUSA for hurricane relief; and the Polish Pastoral Center sent a check for $500.35.

Responding to news that a Dominican parish and priory in New Orleans was badly flooded and the friars evacuated by boat, parishioners at St. Mary Magdalen in Berkeley collected $11,951 “for the needs of the friars, parish and provincial staff members and parishioners.”

At St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, a St. Vincent de Paul truck collected donated goods for the second weekend in a row as part of a joint effort with St. Isidore Parish in Danville. Their project drew help from San Ramon Curves, which delivered 23 van loads of supplies, and from helpers who came from Berkeley, Concord, Brownie Troop #2142, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and others.
The donations went to needy areas in Texas and elsewhere in the Gulf states. At one church, “deep in Cajun country,” according to Kelly French and Janet Glubetich, who organized the effort, “residents and school children ran into the street, clapping as the semi-truck arrived” in remote Duson, Louisiana.

Individuals also responded to the crisis by offering firsthand help. Among them was Helen Wong, social justice director at Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg and a member of a Red Cross disaster action team. She helped out in shelters in Houston and in two small Louisiana towns, organizing donated goods, setting up beds, changing bed linens and lending “an ear and a hug where needed.”

A former parishioner of Christ the King Parish, Michael Manning, was also among the volunteers helping in the cleanup in Mississippi. He and fellow Jesuit Volunteer Corps members drove from Atlanta to help out at St. Alphonsus Parish in Ocean Springs, Miss., where they helped sort donations and tore out sodden sheetrock from damaged houses.


This young volunteer at St. Isidore Church in Danville helps pack one of the many boxes of donated supplies shipped to St. Vincent de Paul Society groups in Louisiana and Texas.



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