The children of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City — from the school and faith formation programs — put colored pencils and pens to plain takeout food boxes, turning them into little houses. One in particular had precisely drawn bricks on the front, red tiles on the roof, and a row of flowers blooming from rectangular boxes on the sides.
The parish put out about 450 Little Houses. Once they ran out, envelopes stamped with FESCO's name were made available. With them came a list of 10 suggestions for ways to contribute, such as skipping the coffee shop one day and renting a DVD instead of taking the family to the movies.
Parishioners were asked to return the Little Houses the Sunday after Christmas. Through Feb. 7, 119 Little Houses were turned in, along with 31 envelopes.
It was in one of those Little Houses — the one with the bricks, red tiles and flower boxes — that Rev. José León, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, along with two parishioners, presented a check for $3,231 to FESCO executive director Gay McDaniel.
Ron Wenzler, the parish's representative to the shelter's board, and Anthony O'Singh joined in making the presentation, which included an additional check for $100.
"People are very generous to the homeless and poor," Father León said of his parishioners. In addition to the Little House donations during Advent, he said, parishioners provided cash donations which provided 110 Christmas baskets and gifts for families who needed them.
"When it comes to the poor, there's something about this parish," he said. "We are really good at this. I am proud of that."
The parishioners' generosity has not been deterred by the challenging economy. "They've come through," he said.
As a member of FESCO, the parish, which has 3,000 families, is responsible for annual dues to the shelter organization, as well as providing a member of the board, and participation in two fundraising events.
The shelter holds an annual walk, dubbed the Shelter Shuffle, each May. Last year, the walkers from our Lady of the Rosary included the pastor's dog, Payaso, the top fundraiser for the parish.
Every dollar counts for FESCO, which operates an emergency shelter, serving more than 100 families a year, and transitional shelter. About 40 percent of its operating budget comes from foundations, businesses and individuals, with the remainder from government grants.
"Our mission is to serve families with children," said McDaniel, who joined FESCO last fall.
At Anthony's home, the Little House at his house had a place of honor … so much so that he said his mother took it with her when they went places, inviting others to donate.
At Our Lady of the Rosary, the Little Houses that were returned will be saved and put out when Advent rolls around this year.
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