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Catholic Voice
 
 July 16, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
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Catholic Charities workers feed golf fans, find new revenue

Steve Wilcox, chairman of the board of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, volunteers in food preparation at the U.S. Open. With him is Kristen Maden of PROM Management, which organized the concession booths.
COURTESY of CATHOLIC CHARITIES

Bill DeSmet, a parishioner at Queen of All Saints Church in Concord, spent Father's Day in "The Dog House" — with his family's blessing.

While hundreds of people enjoyed the sunshine, the golf and the celebrity sightings at the U.S. Open in San Francisco last month, DeSmet was among 278 volunteers affiliated with Catholic Charities of the East Bay who put in days of work to rival those of the participating pros.

With its volunteers staffing concession stands, Catholic Charities found not only a new, one-time revenue source, but paved the way for additional work at Bay Area sporting events.

"It was a lot of fun," recalled DeSmet, who is a member of the Knights of Columbus council at his parish. He had learned about the volunteer opportunity with Catholic Charities through the Knights. "When I saw it was the U.S. Open," he recalled, "I thought, 'That couldn't be possible.'"

When he told his son and son-in-law about it, they said, he recalled, "You haven't signed up yet? What's the matter with you?"

He spent eight hours preparing and serving hot dogs on the tournament's last day, which was Father's Day.

"From the time we got there through the time we left, it was non-stop," he said of the work. "As busy as everyone was, everyone was so polite and helpful to each other."

Monique Assen, a student of vocational English as a second language at Catholic Charities of the East Bay who is from Cameroon, works side by side with Daniel Crose, a vocational English as a second language instructor, at the U.S.. Open in San Francisco.
There was no standing around, he said. "I hadn't worked that hard since I worked for KFC when I was 16," DeSmet said. "They gave away free cherry pies on President's Day and there would be a line out the door."

Volunteers were invited to stay and watch golf after their shifts.

"What a thrill," he said. "The time on the course was worth everything we put in prior to that." At the end of his shift, DeSmet was able to watch Tiger Woods.

That may have been exciting, but it didn't compare with the day's purpose for DeSmet. "Everybody knew that every hour we worked, we were helping Catholic Charities continue doing their work. That was the spiritual driving force behind the day."

Some of the volunteers, who worked side-by-side with longtime supporters and business leaders, are clients in Catholic Charities' job training programs. The ability to serve food to hungry clients quickly and run a cash register in a high-pressure venue adds to a résumé.

At a time when many nonprofits are facing diminished financial support, this is an opportunity for Catholic Charities to create a dependable revenue stream to support some of its work.

Among the volunteers serving in "The Dog House" over the course of seven days were 40 from CCEB Refugee Employment Services; 42 from the Knights of Columbus; 15 from St. Mary's and 15 from St. John Vianney parishes, according to Frank Malifrando, chief development and public affairs officer for Catholic Charities of the East Bay. Volunteers from several other parishes, high schools and community groups also participated.

Nonprofit groups had been invited to staff the concession stands at the Olympic Club in San Francisco during the tournament, with organizations receiving a donation for providing volunteers. Catholic Charities is awaiting final numbers for its works, but Malifrando estimated it would be $10,000 to $15,000.

The East Bay group was so successful at recruiting volunteers, he said, that they were able to staff more booths than they had originally anticipated. "We showed we have an organized base that will show up," Malifrando said.

Show up they did, in spite of some obstacles. On the day Joe Reid's team of his longtime running buddies was scheduled to volunteer at the U.S. Open, they had planned to take BART from Walnut Creek. But that morning, a fire near the West Oakland BART station shut down transbay service.

"Plan B," Reid said, of a three-hour drive from Walnut Creek, across the San Mateo Bridge to the Colma BART station, where they caught a shuttle bus to the golf course.

"We served beer for eight hours on Thursday," said Reid, a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Walnut Creek who works at Chevron. He estimated he personally opened more than 200 pop-tops at his post above the 18th hole, where wine was poured and kegs were tapped. "We figured we were north of $75,000 in sales."

All in all, it turned out to be a good day for Reid, who had seen call for volunteers in his parish bulletin. "It's a win-win," he said. "You get to watch a little golf, take a day off work, and make some money for Catholic Charities."

Innocent and Hope Memee volunteered at "The Dog House" during the tournament, preparing and serving hot dogs. The sisters, who arrived from Kenya in March to reunite with their mother, are involved in job training programs at Catholic Charities of the East Bay.

Innocent, 20, and Hope, 18, are gaining skills as they look for work in their new land. Innocent has been preparing for clerical and data entry work. Until she finds a job, she said, she prefers volunteering her time rather that "sitting around the house."

The success at the U.S. Open has led Catholic Charities of the East Bay to enter into a contract with the University of California to staff concession stands at Memorial Stadium when the football season opens in September. Malifrando estimated that could bring in an additional $25,000 to $35,000 in unrestricted funds to Catholic Charities. It's a fundraising tool that had never existed with CCEB, he said, adding it is also being used as an adjunct to the refugee training program.

"A win-win for all," he said.

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