Canandaigua parish distributes winter coats to migrants, others in need

Christmas came early for many of the children who belong to the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Marion.

On Nov. 17, dozens of these children — many of whom are the children of migrant workers — received winter coats that had been donated and delivered by volunteers from St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua and East Bloomfield.

“When we delivered the coats … there were many happy and excited children that couldn’t wait to choose a new coat,” remarked Angi Salerno, leader of St. Benedict’s Migrant Ministry. “Parents were absolutely joy-filled and very grateful.”

Nearly 300 coats were donated to St. Benedict’s annual fall coat drive this year, according to Deacon Claude Lester, coordinator of the parish’s social ministry and sacramental ministry. The more than 200 coats contributed by parishioners were supplemented by another 83 coats donated by Pactiv, a local company that manufactures and delivers food packaging and food-service products.

“They invited their employees to lend a helping hand. That was great,” Deacon Lester said, noting that the parish’s collection was “very successful.”

During the coat drive, organizers requested donations of coats for children ranging in age “from birth to 15,” as well as coats for adults, Salerno said. On Nov. 16, parish volunteers sorted through all the donated coats, grouping them by size and gender.

“We had 23 boys’ toddler-size coats and actually 28 girls’ toddler-size coats, and all sizes for kids and adults,” Deacon Lester said. “It was really a wonderful thing.”

Approximately 80 percent of the children’s coats were delivered to Our Lady of Guadalupe the next day, and the remaining kids’ coats and most of the adult coats were donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Clothing Closet in Canandaigua.

“We had more children’s coats than adult coats, and although we asked for new or gently used, the vast majority of them still had tags on them. I always say try on last year’s coat and ask yourself, does it still fit? Do you still want it? But people just love to do this,” Deacon Lester said of the newly purchased coats.

The annual delivery of coats to Our Lady of Guadalupe is just one of the ways in which St. Benedict parishioners interact with the Marion mission, Salerno said. Toys and clothing requests from some of the children of Our Lady of Guadalupe are included among the items written on tags on the parish’s giving trees, and volunteers from St. Benedict regularly make mittens, scarves and hats for the migrants. The parish regularly donates hygiene items to the mission, and if one of the Marion families finds itself in need of household goods or furniture, St. Benedict’s migrant ministry members do their best to fulfill those needs, Salerno said.

The relationship between the St. Benedict and Our Lady of Guadalupe communities, however, is built upon much more than material goods or donated items, she added.

“Beyond helping to fulfill basic needs, our two faith communities have formed strong bonds over the past five years of St. Ben’s Migrant Ministry,” Salerno said. “Our purpose is to foster mutual evangelism, help to provide basic needs and follow the mandate of Pope Francis to welcome all people.”

Each year, St. Benedict parishioners bring food to the Marion mission for its celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and each year members of the mission community are invited to St. Benedict’s July barbecue in celebration of the feast day of St. Benedict. Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners frequently invite St. Benedict parishioners to join them for Sunday Mass and other events at the Marion church, Salerno said.

“It’s developed and evolved into nice personal relationships between the two communities,” she said. “They’re such a wonderful, loving, accepting, beautiful community. We share. We go back and forth. We have a good rapport, and the people are just so sweet.”

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