A time for giving

December 11, 2012

HOUSTON — Several of the area’s Catholic services organizations are working to bring Christmas cheer to thousands of area residents who would not otherwise receive.

Catholic Charities’ 19th annual Share Your Blessings program will touch more than 5,000 clients enrolled in the organization’s many services — helping to bring Christmas to expectant mothers, orphans, families, refugees and seniors throughout Harris and Fort Bend counties. It’s the organization’s biggest-ever drive, expanded to meet the needs to a fast-growing impoverished population. 

The organization will accept donations of newly purchased items and gift cards until Dec. 16 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Catholic Charities’ main office at 2900 Louisiana St., in Houston. Monetary donations can also be made.

Ten-dollar gift cards from Walmart or CVS Pharmacy are especially appreciated to help seniors pay for prescription medicines. Suggestions for age-appropriate gifts for children can be found on the organization’s Share Your Blessings pages: www.catholiccharities.org/syb.

Donations can be made online by following the “Donate” link on the Share Your Blessings Page, or call 713-874-6733. 

Volunteers are needed to staff gift-distribution parties Dec. 19 and 20 at the main office, and Dec. 21 and 22 at apartment complexes for refugees: catholiccharities.org/angelswanted.

Christy Salinas, Catholic Charities volunteer coordinator, said volunteers are needed to give local Catholic Charities’ clients plenty of warm smiles as gifts are distributed.

“A lot of churches are doing toy drives,” Salinas said. “We’ll pick up those toys and have our volunteers go through the toys and shop for our clients. Each child will get three gifts. At least one or two ‘big’ items and the third item will be something small, so that we can try to equalize all the gifts that are being distributed to families.”

Of the 5,000 individuals in the Share Your Blessings database, Salinas said there are at least 1,000 families listed, nearly half of them recently resettled refugees. 

“We’re also getting grocery gift cards A lot of our seniors need those to get their medications or stuff that food stamps can’t provide.”
Volunteers may contact Salinas at 713-874-6732 or csalinas@catholiccharities.org for more information.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) is conducting a food drive in conjunction with the Houston Food Bank and Channel 13’s Share Your Holidays food drive. It’s one of many ongoing initiatives. 

The SVDP is reaching out to families, schools and companies to help create Christmas dinner “food baskets” for needy families. Canned or dry-mix foods are sought, including canned yams, cranberries and vegetables, rice or beans, boxes of stuffing, cake mixes — traditional holiday fare, perhaps a holiday decoration. All food items must be in their original, unopened packages. Twenty-dollar gift cards from local grocery stores — to help pay for a turkey or ham — are also appreciated. 

Donations can be dropped off Tuesday through Saturday at SVDP pantry locations: La Petite Food Depot at 5236 Cedar in Bellaire, and at the John L. Food Depot at 6654 Gulf Frwy. in Houston.

For more information, visit SVDPHouston.org or contact Michelle Gonzalez, director of communications and volunteer support, at 713-741-8234, michelle.gonzalez@svdphouston.org or Director of development Laura Schlameus at 832-538-0325.

Members of the Archdiocesan Choir, under the direction of Dr. Rick Lopez, will be performing at five Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons on Saturday, Dec. 15, according to Deacon Eddie Stoughton, associate director of Correctional Ministries.

Lopez, Associate Director at the Office of Worship, said this will be the third year that members of the Archdiocesan Choir have visited correctional facilities in the greater Houston area. 

“This year we will be visiting four units and presenting a 30-minute program at each of traditional carols and Christmas songs for the inmates on Saturday December 15th,” Lopez said.

Residents of Angela House, a home for women recently released from incarceration, have a busy Advent season, according to Executive Director Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP. Events at the residence for the remainder of the season include:
• Dec. 11: The Angela House Players present “Christmas Readers Theater”;
• Dec. 14: Resident therapist Teresa Doyle hosts her annual Christmas Brunch with current and past residents coming together to share a meal and friendship; and 
• Dec. 15: A Christmas visit from Mt. Rose Missionary Church.
For more information about Angela House, visit www.angelahouse.org.