Ministries aided by Christmas Appeal

ROCHESTER — When St. Andrew’s Food Cupboard ran out of funds and food this past fall, Margaret Oberst wondered how the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish ministry would continue to serve the hundreds of families that count on it every month.

So, as the cupboard’s director shopped for basic staples in October, a man with a disability wound up helping her load the groceries she had purchased using a parish credit card. He thanked her for what she does and told her how so many people like him would not survive without ministries like St. Andrew’s.

"The Lord was speaking through this … person," Oberst said. "There’s a need to stay open."

St. Andrew’s Food Cupboard was one of several St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish ministries to receive a $600 stipend for a total of $,3000 from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, according to Jim Kinsman, the parish’s director of finance and administration. The parish also operates the Sr. Regis Food Cupboard, the St. Vincent de Paul furniture ministry and the Matthew’s Closet clothing ministry.

"Financially they (the ministries) are supported by and funded by our parish, various grants, donations from individuals, a few other parishes in our diocese, and to a lesser degree a few businesses. The many volunteers who make these ministries operate successfully are very dedicated and work very hard to accomplish their mission," Kinsman said in an e-mail. "Operating both cupboards is a challenge and there is always more need than we can meet, but for the hundreds of households who do benefit each month, it is a critical service."

To support parish ministries such as those at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the 45th-annual appeal that began Nov. 1 hopes to raise $50,000 by the end of February.

"There is no way this parish (alone) can support these ministries, it’s not happening," noted Oberst. "We have to be a community to help the urban poor."

A parish pasta fundraiser this fall, though, did help keep St. Andrew’s Food Cupboard afloat, she added, and it provided more than 400 families with Thanksgiving dinner.

Throughout the year, St. Andrew’s provides 380 families a month with three to four days’ worth of food, said Oberst, who is helped by about 40 volunteers.

A letter to regular donors also is starting to bring in additional donations, she said.

"I want to hug them," she said of the donors. "They are saving us. They are keeping this ministry alive through their faith and generosity."

Both cupboards also receive food donations from Foodlink, Wegmans, and several parishes and schools.

Donations for the St. Regis cupboard also come from area parishes as well as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, which delivers food and toys to the parish at Christmastime, said parishioner Natalia Medero.

For many years, Medero has been helping Sister of Mercy Julia Norton prepare Christmas baskets for families. The baskets include presents for the children as well as Price-Rite gift cards that are purchased using Christmas Appeal funds, she said.

This year, Medero has taken on the bulk of the basket coordination since Sister Norton fell ill over the summer. Medero and other volunteers will help about 90 families this Christmas, she said.

Another St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioner fell ill this past year after more than a decade of service as codirector of Matthew’s Closet alongside her husband. Bea and Paul Robinson started working there in 2000, as did many of the 30 volunteers who still serve there, Paul Robinson said.

"Without volunteers, we wouldn’t exist," he added.

The ministry will use its Christmas Appeal funds to purchase socks and underwear for families who use the clothing ministry, he said. Already this year, the ministry has served more than 3,500 people, he added.

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