Catholic Schools Week
Elves of all ages help provide Christmas to 95 refugee families.
Parishes, schools, Catholic Worker become
The Oakland Catholic Worker, parishes of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, St. Joseph Basilica and St. Lawrence O'Toole and St. Philip Neri Elementary School incarnated the joy of Christmas earlier in December. By partnering together they were able to provide 95 refugee families with gifts for Christmas.
The event hosted for the first time by St. Lawrence O'Toole is the culmination of a three-month process which bore good fruit. In early October the Oakland Catholic Worker interviews potential family applicants from their weekly Thursday food distribution. With more than 250 families coming for food each week this is no simple task.
General information is asked about family sizes, monthly income, rent and utility payments. From these respondents 95 families are identified as most in need. Volunteers interview each family following guidelines established by the parishes who provide gifts over a three- week period. The completed forms are then returned to the parishes and schools at the end of October. Elves of all ages then go to work shopping for the simple gifts requested by their families. On the Sunday of the gift distribution, which this year was Dec. 13, modern-day sleighs pull-up and unloaded the gifts. Volunteers recruited by the Oakland Catholic Worker then distribute the gifts to the joyful children and families.
"Turning Wheels for Kids," a Bay Area nonprofit organization that purchases new bicycles for low-income families and builds them with the assistance of fire departments in early December, contributed 39 bicycles to our families. "Clowns Without Borders," an international clowning organization, which performs for children living in refugee camps in war-torn countries, joined us to make a day of fun even merrier. Parishioners at St. Lawrence O'Toole provided snacks, Santa Claus himself as well as a pack of mischievous elves.
Co-founder of the 1986 Oakland Catholic Worker, Bob Lasalle-Klein observed, "We were gratified by the incredible outpouring of generosity and support we received from friends and parishioners from the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, St. Joseph Basilica, St. Philip Neri Elementary School and St. Lawrence O'Toole all of whom contributed to the joyful tenor of the day."
(Tom Webb is a staff member of the Oakland Catholic Worker and regional council member of Pax Christi Northern California.)
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