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placeholder October 27, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
Classy Crafters help fill food pantry in Concord

'Putting on the Ritz
at the Boutique'

Nov. 14, 6 to 8 p.m.
Silent auction, wine pull and preview sale; wine and appetizers served, music

The Boutique
Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Nov. 16, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sale of crafts and homemade edibles

Dec. 20-21, after Masses
Country Kitchen, sale of homemade edibles and kitchen-related

St. Bonaventure Parish
5562 Clayton Road, Concord

Food Pantry of St. Bonaventure Parish


Stitch by stitch, the Classy Crafters of St. Bonaventure are filling the food pantry at the Concord parish that feeds more than 200 families.

For seven years, Barbara Wolpman directed a children's choir at St. Bonaventure. She had a two-word response to meeting needs such as choir robes and buying music: bake sale.

After she finished her volunteer work with the choir, she was still making 40 to 50 fruitcakes and putting up jam.

She asked parish life director Christa Fairfield: Isn't there something we can raise money for?

The question came at just the right time for the food pantry, which was stressed by more families to feed during the economic downturn.

Wolpman's response: Why don't we have a nice big boutique?

"Now it has really blossomed," she said. "People who never knew each other just got involved," she said, creating a "share what you have" community.

A core group of crafters meets for four hours every Wednesday at the parish. Some bring along the crafts they are working on to sell at the November boutique. Others come to lend a helping hand.

"All of our proceeds go to feed our food pantry," said Jenny Meeker, who is chairing this year's boutique.

Now in its third year, the boutique has grown from a beginning of raising about $30,000 to last year meeting three-quarters of the funds needed to fill the weekly food pantry.

The boutique will open with a dress-up "Putting on the Ritz at the Boutique" event the evening of Nov. 14. The boutique will continue from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 15 and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 16.

Crafting can sometimes be a solitary venture, but is enlivened in the company of like-spirited women. A group of knitters meets in homes, preparing scarves, sweaters and other items for the sale.

"It's a lot of fun to serve such a wonderful cause," Meeker said.

Additionally, Meeker said, "more than 40 percent of the products are recycled, upcycled or made from donations."

"People are so clever," Meeker said. "We have a number of seamstresses in our group." Among the items for sale will be "amazing" purses embellished with stitchery, home décor items, soaps and bubble bath and travel items.

The Classy Crafters' knitters meet at members' homes, and provide handmade treasures. After last year's sale, the knitters were given a choice: Save the leftovers for next year and knit no more, or give them away to the parish coat and blanket drive, and you can knit away.

They chose the giveaway — leftover baby blankets were donated to the Bay Area Crisis nursery in Concord — and to pick up their needles.

"Most of the crafters are women but there are a number of husbands who participate from behind the scenes," Meeker said.

One such behind-the-scenes assist came from a husband who built the trays to display the succulent gardens his wife created.

Food is Wolpman's forte. Bakers and jam makers come though, she said, offering a wide variety of food for sale. It reflects, too, the diversity of the parish. One parishioner brought 10 French specialties, meat pies traditionally served on Christmas Eve. All 10 sold the first day. The baker returned the next day with an additional 10. A Peruvian parishioner provided 200 empanadas.

"The parish is blessed to have such women," Wolpman said.

A parish cookbook is being published and will be sold at the boutique. The idea came from the parish maintenance head, Frank Palmeri, who paid chefs at a potluck the ultimate compliment: You guys should do a cookbook.

The crafters are honored to support the food pantry. "It's amazing what they do," Meeker said. "They do an incredible job," she said, setting up like a grocery store, well-staffed with volunteers to assist, where people choose their own food. "It doesn't feel like there's any judgment," Meeker said.

Those the food pantry serves may have lost a job or a home, and are "not needy by their own will," Wolpman said.

"It could be us instead of them," she said.

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