Checks totaling more than $25,000 were given to two dozen groups that feed the hungry in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, signifying the 25 percent of the annual Operation Rice Bowl collection that is put to work locally.
Representatives from the groups, which include more than a dozen affiliated with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, attended a Dec. 10 breakfast in the parish hall of the Cathedral of Christ the Light, where their work was recognized and the checks distributed.
Using Operation Rice Bowl materials during Lent, families learn about the poor in other countries, and put coins and dollar bills into a little paper box, which typically is brought to the parish on Holy Thursday. Three-quarters of the funds collected in a diocese support Catholic Relief Services projects across the globe, while the remainder is given to local groups through a grant process.
Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oakland, said, "I am very supportive of the local outreach we have to people in our local areas." From his experience as archbishop of Seattle, he said, "Rice Bowl was always a very big event in the life of the diocese."
He stressed the important role local agencies play.
"In the local areas we are looking out for people who need help, who need somebody to stand up for them, somebody to respect them, somebody to make their lives more pleasant and more enjoyable because it is very hard in many communities, especially when you get into communities that have been ravaged by unemployment," he said.
"People need help," he said. "You're doing that."
Joe Hastings, education organizer for Catholic Relief Services West, told the gathering that feeding the hungry is central to Catholic social teaching, and life.
"For Catholic," the main religious ritual we do is to gather around the table commemorating a meal," he said. "There is no issue of food or hunger that is disconnected to our core."
At the awards ceremony, St. Isidore Parish in Danville was recognized for its contributions to the annual collection.
"We're very honored," said Eileen Perez, who represented the parish.
As each group received its check, there were stories of increase in need, and an increase in services they provided over the past year.
The Delta Community Food Pantry a consortium of St. Anne Parish in Byron, Delta Christian Presbyterian Church in Discovery Bay and Byron United Methodist began serving 30 families. Three years later, they serve 150 families, and have expanded service to include the community of Knightsen.
2012 Operation Rice Bowl Grantees
$1,100 each to:
Ariel Outreach Mission, Oakland
Delta Christian Community Food Pantry, Byron
Ephesian Church, Berkeley
Interfaith Sharing, Inc., Livermore
Kmhmú Laotian Pastoral Center, Richmond
Oakland Catholic Worker
St. Vincent de Paul, Bay Point Conference
St. Vincent de Paul, Church of the Assumption, San Leandro
St. Vincent de Paul, Hope Conference, Contra Costa County
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Callistus Church, El Sobrante
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Catherine of Siena Church, Martinez
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jerome Church, El Cerrito
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mark Church, Richmond
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Patrick Church, Rodeo
St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County, Brentwood Free Food Pantry and Pittsburg Free Dining Room
Sister Rose Carroll's Ministry for the Poor and Homeless, Oakland and Concord
St. Joseph Church, Sister John Marie's Pantry, Fremont
St. Mary's Center, Oakland
Tri-Valley Haven Food Pantry, Livermore
These groups received $1,000 each:
Alameda County Community Food Bank
Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County Dining Room
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