Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas is here already?!

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Special Christmas Post by Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were sitting down for Thanksgiving? Time flies when you’re having fun.

As we prepare for Christmas, to head to Mass or spend time with our family and loved ones, I am taking a moment to stop, and look back on an incredible month. It flew by in a blur of gifts, meals, and laughter.

With 65 programs, there’s no shortage of Christmas celebrations around here. Our Kennedy School and Child Development Center, which both work with young people who have a developmental delay, each enjoyed celebrations and visits with Santa. They also held a wonderful Christmas pageant, featuring kids of each grade contributing, singing, dancing and laughing. Seeing the smiles of those kids will melt your heart.

The celebration of Christmas at our Refugee Center has a different feel to it. This is a program working with people who have fled their home for political, personal or even religious persecution. For many of them, this was their first time experiencing Christmas in America. Our Refugee Center staff created a warm environment over delicious food and I know it felt like home for many of the refugees as they laughed, sang some carols and more.

Several of our families were lucky enough to receive gifts directly from players on the Washington Redskins, Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. These teams and their players set a great example in our community, as well as create unforgettable memories by visiting some of our families in their homes or hosting them for a special day where the teams practice.

Our staff were all able to get together for some much needed rest and relaxation over delicious food at our annual Christmas party, which always feels like a BIG family reunion.

Our Angel Tree Program reached more than 700 children with donated toys and clothing thanks to hundreds of generous donors who bought and delivered toys. On Monday and Tuesday, our McCarrick Family Center distributed gifts to more than 500 families living in the nearby neighborhood. So awesome to see happy parents who have been relieved of the stress of providing Christmas gifts to their little ones.

And finally, we ended our celebration on Monday with a wonderful and delicious dinner for our homeless neighbors here at our home offices at 924 G St. With beautiful table settings and warm plates of turkey, green beans, gravy and mashed potatoes plus dessert, more than 200 people came for a holiday meal.


It feels like the perfect way to finish an incredible year, and I thank each of you for your part in making our community a better place for every family. Now, I pray each of you find peace and joy in this wonderful holiday, as we finish up the hustle and bustle and turn our eyes to the star over Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas!

~Fr. John

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Gifts Given to 500 Montgomery County Families

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It was 12:25 pm just three days before 12/25/2014 and the line at our McCarrick Family Center was long as parents anxiously waited in hopes of picking out a good present for each of their children.

With a room full of gifts donated to Catholic Charities to distribute to qualifying low-income families, volunteers guided each family through the room, selecting one toy for each of their children. Bikes, action figures, dolls, books, soccer balls and more awaited their choice and parents took their time shopping and evaluating. A volunteer, dressed as jolly old St. Nick, walked up and down the line, greeting children and wishing them a merry Christmas.

One father, still wearing his mechanic’s shirt, happily wheeled a bicycle out while his wife pushed a stroller behind with a doll. Another woman held up two different learning toys for a three-year-old. Every parent was able to leave with a stuffed animal.

A magician made balloon animals and volunteers played Wii bowling with children while their parents waiting in line. Local nonprofits set up tables as a resource fair to provide parents with assistance in many ways. Over the course of two days, more than 500 families who had applied for assistance through Montgomery County were expected to come, seeking help. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

We shipped 10,000 thanksgiving turkeys to local families - thanks to 1,000 volunteers.

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Guest Post by Mike Gehring

The scene at the SHARE Food Network on Friday, November 21 can only be described as organized chaos. Picture a large warehouse, decorated with banners and positive posters covering its far wall. Below that, a long row of tall, wooden tables runs the length of the room. At each table, a volunteer is ready to hand out potatoes, frozen fish, onions, a box of stuffing or any other of several food items.
Standing at the end of row of tables are boxes and boxes of frozen turkeys – tens of thousands of turkeys. For two days, thousands more volunteers come through and pick-up orders of food packages – this month, all of them Thanksgiving meals for a family.

Welcome to Thanksgiving at the SHARE Food Network. Over the course of November 21-22, more than 10,000 thanksgiving dinners were distributed to customers across DC, Maryland, Virginia and even West Virginia.  

One gentleman, dressed smartly in his work clothing, took a long lunch break to pickup 110 turkey meals that would be given out at his church. He moved down the line, stacking on boxes, grabbing fruit and checking off his list before sliding a very full cart to the loading bay.
What’s in a food package? Customers who purchased the $40 turkey package received 10-14 lb. turkey with fresh seasonal produce such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, celery, apples, oranges, stuffing mix, elbow macaroni, a holiday pie, and 4-5 lbs. of meats/fish to stock the freezer. Compared to prices in the grocery store, that package saves our customers 50-60% on their food.

That’s right, we said customers. Saving around 50 percent on their groceries.
The easiest way to understand SHARE is to think of it as a grocery store that sells three food package options once a month, every month. We buy the food from the same wholesale companies selling to your local grocery store. The difference is we shop for the bargains or excess food that these suppliers need to sell, and then we ask thousands of volunteers to help get us the orders at their church, school, military outfit, workplace or community center.

One weekend each month, they all come to the warehouse, help us box up the food, help load it into the vans, cars, and trucks, and take it back home to feed hungry families.

SHARE is one of the best ways to help low-income families have a proactive hand in being helped. It may be a small difference to most of us, but the power found in being able to provide for your family, even on a limited budget, can be very empowering.
The unique model of SHARE offers nutritious food to anyone – you, me, a single mother of three struggling to put food on the table, a disabled army veteran, Michael Jordan, Bono, Taylor Swift, or anyone else who eats food. The same goes for volunteers – we have them as young as five and as seasoned as 90.

SHARE was started way back in April of 1990 in partnership with the Knights of Malta. Today, the SHARE Network moves more than 350,000 pounds of food each month to hungry customers and works with 273 locations around the region to distribute the food (that’s your workplace, church, or other gathering spot)!