Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our "Cup of Joe" Means So Much More than Coffee

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Joe Robert, Jr. was a well-loved businessman and philanthropist, committed to his community here in Washington, DC – particularly to the less fortunate. He gave his time and treasure freely to numerous causes that uplifted children and adults in need: Children’s Hospital, Fight Night, the Archdiocese of Washington, and Catholic Charities.

After a three-year struggle with brain cancer, Joe passed away in December 2011. Now, as a legacy to his inspirational work, our President/CEO Father John Enzler launched Cup of Joe - a healthy breakfast program for Catholic Charities' five low-barrier emergency shelters, which host more than 1,000 men and women each night. 

Cup of Joe addresses a very real need for the women and men who stay in our shelters overnight. Through a partnership with DC city government, we are able to provide protection from the weather and the streets, a bed, a shower, and a hot supper at our five shelters. Breakfast is not provided, and clients leave the shelter by 7 am. 

Volunteers from Cardinal Stritch packed 2,000 bags!
Cup of Joe helps Catholic Charities increase our commitment to our homeless neighbors by providing more than just the basic services. As Father John explained, "A healthy breakfast is just the start of ensuring that our clients have the physical, emotional, psychological  and spiritual sustenance to begin each day ready to improve their situation."

Essential to this initiative are volunteers to pack the bags with fresh fruit, juice boxes, instant coffee packets, granola bars and peanut butter crackers,and a reusable coffee mug. 

Deacon Jim works with WTOP Volunteers
The program has already bagged 14,500 breakfasts thanks to over 400 volunteers from local schools and parishes, community groups and businesses. Most recently, high school students involved in our Youth Service Day packed an incredible 8,240 bags in just one afternoon! It's a lot, but it's a number that needs to keep growing. 

At elementary schools, older students often pack bags
while younger kids write notes or color bags to brighten the
day for the clients who will receive them.
"We're just beginning," said Deacon Jim Nalls, Parish and School Program Manager. "Our goal is to provide breakfast every morning, to each of the women and men staying in our low-barrier shelters." That's some 7,000 meals a week, 28,000 a month - we'll stop there, but you can see that we need a lot of volunteer effort to make this program a success - and to make sure that our homeless neighbors don't need to start their day with an empty, grumbling stomach. 

Now, it's your turn! Commit your parish, your office, your class, etc. for a one-time or ongoing commitment with Cup of Joe. We need your manpower and energy to help us fill these bags to feed our homeless neighbors. Contact the  Volunteer Office for more information at

Thanks to all who have volunteered so far, including groups from Cardinal Stritch University, WTOP, St. Patrick's, St. Augustine's, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Cross Alumni, the University of Maryland, Novartist, and clients at Catholic Charities' Supported Employment programs, plus generous contributions from a friend of Joe Robert.