Regardless of the pandemic, families throughout Monroe County will still have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays this year thanks in part to proceeds from an annual Christmas fundraising campaign.
Every year, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish distributes baskets of food items, clothing and gifts during the holiday season. This effort is made possible through donations from the community as well as funds from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal.
A portion of the donations collected through the appeal helps fund Hunger Relief Grants that are then distributed to local ministries by Rochester’s Catholic Family Center.
“The appeal is a phenomenal thing, and it just keeps going on year after year, which is totally amazing,” said Father Robert Werth, parochial vicar.
This year, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini received a $3,342 grant — $1,671 for the parish and $1,671 for the Sr. Regis Food Cupboard, which serves as a food pantry for residents in the Rochester area.
Funds received on behalf of the parish are distributed between its three worship sites, St. Michael, Our Lady of the Americas and Church of the Annunciation, to support the holiday basket initiative. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, donations will look a little different this year.
Meche Bermudes Ortiz, a St. Michael parishioner who has overseen the holiday basket initiative for more than 30 years, said there will be no food or gift baskets given this year. Instead, she said that gift cards to such stores as Target or Walmart will be given to registered families, who then will be informed of when they can safely pick up their gift cards.
“All this is new to us,” Ortiz said.
Although the holiday basket initiative had to forgo food this year, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s Sr. Regis Food Cupboard on Bay Street is still continuing to operate.
According to Sister Julia Norton, the food pantry’s director, the pantry serves upwards of 300 families a month, with an additional 70 to 80 families during the holiday season.
Although the cupboard traditionally offers food baskets, it is using its portion of the Hunger Relief Grant to provide Price Rite and Walmart gift cards instead. According to Sister Norton, gift cards are especially helpful, since individuals are no longer allowed to select their food at the cupboard and instead receive pre-boxed items.
“It’s been very different, but it’s working,” she said.“I am so grateful, and it just amazes me how God is providing in different ways this year.”