As the name implies, outreach means reaching out to people beyond our walls. Who are they? They are the poor, the sick, the dying, the homeless, and victims of disaster and oppression. Our contributions can and do make a tremendous difference in other people’s lives.
Why practice outreach? We do it to bring comfort and healing in the spirit of Christ and to live out our faith through our work. Outreach is very important to us. It provides abundant opportunities for us to make ourselves available to others and we devote significant portions of our financial resources and volunteer time to outreach projects.
Each year a sizable portion of St. Anselm’s operating budget is set aside for charity. The agencies to be funded and the amount each is to receive is decided by a vote of the entire parish. The largest awards are made to the highest-rated charities. Since 2000, we have given ten percent of our budget to 18 to 20 agencies working mostly in Contra Costa County, including:
Other outreach projects are not funded by our operating budget, but by spontaneous giving by parishioners who feel the cause to serve. Our gifts take many forms — money, labor, time and talent. With informal projects, we take much of the responsibility for delivering services and/or fund-raising. Although we work cooperatively with the umbrella agencies that sponsor the programs, we do most of the work. Some of these projects are listed below.
St. Anselm’s and other Contra Costa churches provide food and shelter for homeless families (approximately thirty people) when the weather turns cold. The families move from church to church for stays of about one week at each church. We provide home-cooked meals, warm and comfortable places to sleep, and supportive activities for the children. The program works! Several of our families have saved enough money to move into permanent living quarters.
We provide Christmas gifts for the children of some of Contra Costa County’s neediest families through the Vestia program. Parishioners buy gifts on an age-specific wish list provided by Vestia. The gifts are then delivered to Vestia, which distributes them to the families. The gifts range from practical (warm clothing) to fantastical (mountain bikes).
We provide farm animals, such as cows, pigs, and sheep, for impoverished families in developing nations through Heifer Project International (HPI). The families use the animals or animal products (meat, milk or wool) for their own needs or as a supplement to the family income. The family agrees to pass any offspring on to other needy families in the community. Like a stone dropped in still water, these gifts ripple out for years to come.
One week a year, members of the parish prepare and serve dinners at the North Concord Shelter for the homeless. The residents greatly appreciate the meals, and show their enthusiasm in a variety of ways such as compliments to the chefs, requests for seconds, and applause after dessert.
During the period 2009-2013 St. Anselms helped to fund the education of Izaru Richard Benson (Ben), a young man met by one of our parishioners traveling in Uganda and Sudan in 2008. Ben is very bright and aspired to a university education. But he and his family were very poor and he couldn’t afford one.
In Spring, 2009, we began to raise funds to help Ben attend Makerere University, Uganda’s premier institution of higher learning. In a few short months, the fund was sufficient to finance Ben’s first academic year. We continued to fund his remaining years.
In January, 2013 Ben graduated with a degree in economics and management. St. Anselm’s parishioners contributed about 85% of the money needed to fund his education.
If you would like more information on our outreach program or wish to be contacted by someone about them, click here to send an e-mail request.