|January 6, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 1 • Oakland, CA|
| 28 groups net Rice Bowl grants to combat hunger
Twenty-eight groups that feed the hungry in Alameda and Contra Costa counties shared almost $20,000 in grant money from the CRS Rice Bowl.
Food pantries, providers of hot meals, growers of community gardens and those who provide a hand with rent and utility bills were among the 2014 recipients, which included 13 parish-based St. Vincent de Paul conferences.
Grant checks ranged from $500 to $900 this year, with no applicant turned down, said Marc McKimmey, who is the diocesan coordinator for Catholic Relief Services.
The work of these organizations, many of them volunteer-driven, is desperately needed, he said. "Things seem to be getting worse for those on the bottom" despite news reports of economic recovery, McKimmey said.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, who offered the morning prayer, reflected that the groups represented at the tables in the parish hall at the Cathedral of Christ the Light were his right-hand workers.
"The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, bringing relief and comfort aid to anyone in need, regardless of their religion, their race or their color," the bishop told the honorees. "Our church has over 1 billion members all around the world. We feed, clothe and shelter more people than other organizations in the world. I'm very proud that you are participating in this act of mercy in the church."
"You have been Christ's, and my, right arm in bringing love and mercy to the many in need, the poor and the sick and suffering of the Diocese of Oakland," he told the volunteers.
"Your actions speak of your great love for the mission of the Catholic Church, the mission of Christ, which is charity," he said.
Brian O'Reilly, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore, was honored with the outstanding service award. While he might have been more comfortable with getting up at 5 a.m. to collect food from local supermarkets to bring to shelters and food pantries, he good-naturedly accepted praise.
The award was presented by Samantha Burrows, director of homeless and family support services, one of the Livermore-area agencies he helps support.
"Brian is a pillar in the Livermore community," Burrows said. "He's willing to do pretty much anything that needs to be done."
In the Dec. 8 St. Charles Borromeo Parish bulletin, Father Mark Wiesner elaborated on some of those ministries. "Brian has been a member of our parish for 40 years, and quietly goes about changing lives and helping people," he wrote.
Among the organizations in which he plays an active role include Interfaith Sharing, a Livermore-based group that received a $900 grant.
"He is actively involved in securing and delivering food to the Tri-Valley Food Pantry and Open Heart Kitchen," wrote Father Wiesner, who attended the awards breakfast. "Brian established the 'Golden Retriever' volunteers, who pick up food from grocery stores that would otherwise be thrown out, and sees that the food is used to feed the hungry."
Within the parish, "Brian connects with every family that has lost a loved one," he wrote. "Brian is also the go-to guy whenever anyone contacts the parish looking for assistance. Whether the need is for food, housing, clothes or furniture, Brian has the network and resources to help those who often have nowhere left to turn."
Among the CRS Rice Bowl grant recipients were organizations with many years of service in feeding the poor, to relative newcomers.
"We're the new kids on the block," said Elder Paul Cunningham of New Hope Baptist Church in Oakland.
The first step was giving out bread; followed by sandwiches, which volunteers deliver to people who live outdoors under the freeway overpasses in Oakland. At Thanksgiving, church members assembled 25 complete meals for Thanksgiving, he said.
As part of the church's Prepare the Table ministry, they plan to serve 100 hot meals at the church in January. In addition to those meals, the Hope on Wheels ministry will take to the streets to deliver hot meals. The church received a $900 grant.
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