From the Director

Well as you all know, we are in very difficult times. We are trying to work our way through as best we can. We have closed the LittleStore until May 4, 2020, as of now, but it might go later! We have closed down all of our other ministries, except immigration, which we are running on a telephone or email basis because of time requirements on some Federal documents. We are running our food program at full steam because food is essential and we have a lot of experience in this arena.

I do want to call your attention to our staff, their situation, our investment committee, our board of directors, and our financial analyst and how they all have risen to the occasion. When we closed everything down the very first question that we needed to address was, do we lay them off immediately or keep them on. Well at first it was an easy decision since the close down was until April 2, 2020, but when the closedown order was extended until May 4, 2020, we panicked because of our fragile financial position!

The first thing we did was get a Zoom meeting with our investment committee and financial analyst to determine, given our current available cash, how long could we keep paying our employees. The answer wasn’t good. We would not be able to pay them through the May 4, 2020, mandatory closing period. The writing was on the wall, we would have to lay them off. 

Kathy and I then did a Zoom meeting with the staff for two reasons. One was that we hadn’t seen any of them since we left for vacation on February 21, 2020, and we wanted to see them! The second reason was to explain as best we could the situation we found ourselves in. We would continue to pay them during the forced shutdown. That we were applying for the Payroll Protection Plan from the Federal Government, but that we had to have a yes or no answer before April 11, 2020. If we did not hear that our application had been accepted by this date we would have to lay them off.  They were troopers. They agreed to our plan and thanked us for all the work we were doing on their behalf.

The next step was to let the board of directors know what we were thinking. So we did a Zoom meeting with them.  The board listened very closely to what we were saying. After forty-five minutes of discussion of the information we received from our meeting with the investment committee, financial analyst, and the government concerning the payroll protection plan, it was agreed that we would lay off the employees by April 12, 2020, because if we paid out wages after that date we would seriously jeopardize our ability to reopen the LittleStore, because we would not have enough cash for the startup.

Simultaneously, while all of this was going on Kathy and Lois were working on our application for the Payroll Protection Program from the Federal Government. I have to tell you their effort to work through the morass of information and dig out all of the information required was nothing short of heroic!

First of all, they had to decide to whom we would apply. It was through a friend of the ministry that we found out that we need to apply through a bank and not through the Small Business Administration. Kathy started a search and found that unless we had an account with the bank in question we could not apply. So we checked our two banks which we do business with, and found only one was participating in the program. 

So Kathy got the forms from their web site and started to accumulate the sixteen pages or so of the information required only to find out the next day that all the payroll reports needed to be redone because the first set of instructions changed and the new ones “just issued” called for a new date range. Finally, on April 4, 2020, we submitted our application and all of the supporting documentation via email to our bank. And then we waited and waited and waited. Nothing. No emails saying we got your information and it is good, or bad, or incomplete or you are approved, nothing.

So we started to call people, the bank contact person’s voice mailbox was full! We then tried to contact the Small Business Administration., We were contacted by a SCORE representative that sent us links to “all you ever wanted to know about” , well anything. We then turned to our Congressman, we got an email from him after 3 or 4 days with, you guessed it, links to “all you ever wanted to know about the PPP and everything else.”

On April 9, 2020, I emailed the SCORE representative and told him our situation and he sent us the email of the contact at the SBA who handles the PPP incoming applications. Kathy immediately called him. He was very nice and somewhat helpful. He told us that our application had not been received, but our bank was indeed submitting them. He then happily announced, “don’t worry about the money running out. We haven’t even gone through our first billion yet!” And this is the problem in the Government’s mind. 

But it truly misses the point! As a very small business, our fuse is much shorter than a company of 300 or 500 employees. They most likely have the cash to continue to pay their employees, but they all seem to have laid off their employees as soon as they could. We, on the other hand, are six employees and we didn’t want to put any of them into a situation where their income would be jeopardized.

So we hung on as long as we could and on April 11, 2020, we furloughed all the employees except our accountant. I cannot remember a more difficult day in our 40-year history. It is not over yet and I will catch you up in our next issue of StreetLights.

Christmas Thank Yous

Your Continued Assistance throughout the Year Enables Us to Carry Out Our Mission – Thank You

M/M Stephen MacLean of Athol; 

M/M Robert McMahon, Christian Klaucle, M/M Paul Verderese, Rev. Richard Jakubauskas, Mrs. Mary McCarthy, Debra Marchand of Auburn; 

M/M Theodore Twarog, M/M Brian Inman of Barre; 

Mrs. Fran Gill, of Berlin 

Mr. Daniel Hall of Boston;

M/M Robert Mecca, Susan Belfield of Boylston; 

M/M Anthony J. Forgione – Cremins of Braintree; 

M/M George Oprica, Rev. Richard Jakubauskas of Brookfield; 

Mrs. Beth Tobin, of Charlton; 

Ms. Kristen King, M/M Richard Boucher of Douglas; 

Susan Peek of Dudley; 

M/M George Conrad, Mr. Michael Conrad of Framingham;

Deacon/Mrs. Anthony Fiore of Harvard; 

M/M James Adams, Ms. June Dumas,  M/M James Ridick of Holden; 

Ms. Irene Campbell of Holliston; 

M/M Garry Seidenberg, Deacon/Mrs. David Vaillancourt, Jessica LeMabre of Hopedale; 

Deacon William Bilow of Lancaster; 

Ms. Cynthia Garabedian of Leicester;

Mrs. Nancy Ciere of Lunenburg;  

Beverly Kozlowski of Medway; 

Sharon Collins of Mendon; 

M/M Bruce Pease of Millbury; 

Deacon/Mrs. John Dugan of Millville; 

Deacon/Mrs. Lee Packard of Milford;                                                                                                           

Mary Mattock, M/M Christopher Scholl, Deacon/Mrs. Joseph McCaffrey, M/M Thomas McCloskey, Ms. Brenda Seymour, M/M John Tegan, III, M/M Paul Murphy, Ms. Theresa Trombetta, M/M John Gallagher, M/M Paul Morin, Mr. Matthew Sherwin, M/M William O’Toole, Tougas Family Farm of Northborough; 

Mrs. Mary Jane Cuzzupe, Arlene Bragg, Christopher Staszak, Mr. Peter Alex of North Grafton;

Ms. June Patsky of Oakham;

M/M Richard Davis, Mrs. Louise Cournoyer of Paxton; 

St. Scholastica Priory, St. Mary’s Monastery of Petersham; 

Ms. Lynn Amsden of Rutland; 

M/M Andrew Mendelson of Salem;

M/M John Matraia, Madelyn Anusbigian, M/M Sang Nguyen, M/M James Kavanagh, Mr. Michael Conrad, M/M Thomas Devine, Gloria Power, Mrs. Leah Devine, Mrs. Joan Rhodes  of Shrewsbury; 

Ms. Annette McCarthy of South Grafton;                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ms. Maureen Hanlon of Spencer;

Mr. Steven Morgan of Sterling; 

M/M Eugene Mossa, M/M Jeffrey Remillard, M/M Charles Trainor, Ms. Patricia Loughlin, M/M Al Petkus, M/M Gerald Donahue, Mr. Mark Bailey of Sutton; 

M/M Daniel Lambert, M/M Richard Gentili, Rosemary Quirk, M/M Paul Pirozzi of Upton; 

Mr. Roland Malboeuf, Linda Neff of Webster; 

Mr. James Harry Duchesne, Cynthia Williamson of West Boylston; 

Knights of Columbus 15972 Council, Mr. Joseph Macchia of Westminster;

M/M Vincent Agnello of Weston; 

Ms. Linda Belliveau of Westwood;

Mr. James Morrison of Williamstown;

Deacon/Mrs. Myles Hayes, Dr/Mrs. Donald Favreau, Mr. Dennis O’Connor, Mr. Michael Gregoire, M/M Brendan Donahue, M/M James Ridick, Carol Johnston, Deacon/Mrs. Michael Chase, Ms. Lan Le, M/M Frank Petrella, Alan’s Locksmith CO, Mr. Alan Doiron, Notre Dame Educational Bridge Center, Mrs. Patricia Campbell,  Mr. Antonio D’Allesandro, Colours LLC, Dorothy Scesny, Mavoureen Robert, Celeste Hedge, Mr. Paul Johnson, M/M Anthony Zamarro, Mrs. Karen Hall, Marie Daguilt, Barbara Murphy, Ms. Amelia Suarez, Venerini Sisters, Sr. Irene Moran MPV of Worcester;

M/M Edward Wilchynski of Yarmouth Port; 

M/M Stefan Wawzyniecki of Vernon, CT;

M/M John Becconsall of Boynton Beach, FL;

St. Anne Parish of Hampstead, NH;

M/M Raymond Cassella of Baldwin, NY;

M/M Robert DeJoie of Ocean Isle Beach, NC; 

Rev. Homer Royer of East Greenville, PA; 

M/M L. Michael Warnalis of Bedford, VA;

What Urban Missionaries Do

Here we were neck deep in Christmas, working every day from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. from Saturday, December 7 to Monday, December 23. With volunteers working tirelessly to fill bags, hopefully matching that special gift with that special child. Then, a request comes to help. Not just your ordinary, “Can you help me with the rent this month, or can you help me with heat this month.”  No, it was can you help five Karenni high school students earn a monthly stipend!

Our friend, Mr. Steve Devincent, had come up with an incentive plan to fund a program to motivate these students by giving them a stipend of $30.00 per week for three hours service work or training in English or computers as long as they maintained a B average or better. My first reaction was, “Heck No! We don’t have time for this. Everyone is already working at their maximum effort – how can we take this project on?” As I started to think about it, however,  I thought maybe we could squeeze it in using a shoehorn.

I decided that if the students’ schedule was flexible enough we could use them at the LittleStore or Saint Oscar Romero food pantry at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. “Hmmm,” I thought, “This may work out.”

I responded to Steve and told him about my ideas for managing this program, how and when the students receive their stipends, and the B average requirement.  He agreed and we decided to have an introductory meeting with all the students, Kathy, Steve, and myself. 

At the introductory meeting, we introduced the students to what we do at Urban Missionaries and how we thought we could be of some help to them, if they wanted to avail themselves of it. We found out that they were Myanmar by culture and Thailanders by birth. Their first ten years of life on God’s good earth was spent in a relocation camp awaiting relocation to another country that would accept them. Their schooling was totally unlike our schooling and they all had to learn English once they got to the United States. They are painfully shy to the point where we need to address very explicit questions to them to find out any information. A tough jump to make for anyone.

We then laid out the ground rules for how they would get paid, what their work schedule would be, and how we would get them to Saint Oscar food pantry. We also spent some time trying to figure out what kind and how much computer training they would receive. We found out they knew very little about computers, but they showed interest in learning more. We decided that we would spend one hour a week on computer and eEnglish issues.

We are now a couple of weeks into the program and as expected we have hit a few bumps on the road, but everyone pulls together and we work our way out of the situation. The students are getting comfortable interacting with the clients at the food pantry. They have taught us that they are fast learners and very hard workers. So please keep the program, The Student Incentive Program, in your prayers and if you are so moved as to make a donation, please make a note designation to The Student Incentive Program. 

Christmas 2019 Recap

Christmas 2019 has come and gone like a thief in the night! Like all of its sister Christmases past, it had its high moments and its low moments. When all is said and done, 1,900 children received a wonderful gift of charity from people who they don’t even know. We can only imagine the smiling  faces and the sound of joyful giggles from these children when they saw what “Santa” had brought them. It only matches the smiling faces and joyful giggles of our Christmas volunteers when they “found the right gift” for a child whose bag they were filling. It brings  a smile to my face every time I think about it!

What about that anonymous gang of about 7,000 people who take a tag or two or three and head into the shopping frenzy to find the “right” gift for a little boy or girl whom they only know by their first name, their age, gender, their coat size and the requested gift. To them, Christmas is a time to worry about the other, be they big or small, black or white, Christian or otherwise, whether they live in my town or far away.  It’s not a time to quibble about our differences, it is a time to show the love God has for all his creation.  When I think about them, I pause whatever I am doing and say a prayer that God will bless their work. 

This year, we were able to sign up 891 families with 1,883 children which works out to about 12,000 gifts. We were blessed to have a few families sign up to volunteer December 22 and 23, 2019. This allowed us to process another 33 families to receive Christmas toys! Because of the generosity of everyone who contributed to our Christmas appeal we were able to waive the $5.00 donation fee for 41 families. Another interesting Christmas fact for you to ponder is that from December 16th to the 23rd we had 169 families sign up. This is startling because we started taking names on October 5, 2019!

So with all this good Christmas news, let me tell you how the season ended. It is December 24, 2019 and it is 11:58 A.M.  I had dismantled all of the computers and packed away all the partitions we use to create a data entry space in the shed, packed up all the heaters, shut off the gas to the building, neatly arranged the gift bags for the 18 families who had not yet claimed their gifts and I had just finished bagging the cash register we use for Christmas to protect it until we need it again next year, when there was a knock on the door! “I can’t believe it,” I said to myself in complete despair. Whenever this happens it is never good. 

I opened the door and a young mother said, “I am here to pick up my gifts.” “A little late,” I thought to myself. “But I don’t have my paper.” she said. “Well, “ I said, “Without the slip of paper (by the way this is the receipt we give at sign up and it has the identifying family number on it so we can identify which bags belong to which family.) I can’t find your gifts. “Well,” she said. “Can’t you look it up?” “No,” I said because everything is shut down. All the computers are dismantled, the offices are all closed up for the holidays, and I am on my way home to be with my family.” “Are you sure?”  she said angrily. It was then that I took a good look at her and noticed that she was “high” on something and my defense mechanism kicked in. Was she really going to give the kids their gifts or were they going to be sold for more drug money? So I told her to come back on Thursday after Christmas and bring her slip of paper and we would be able to get her gifts. This way I thought the kids might have a better chance of getting the gifts even if it was after Christmas.  She took a step back and just looked at me for a few seconds and without another word turned and got into a car and left. Here it is well after New Year’s Day, and I still haven’t seen her. This still haunts me in the still of the night!

From the Director

As we start the year 2020, we have many issues to face, ideas to weigh, and people to meet. In 2019, we started our housing and student incentive programs. We saw increased traffic at both our food pantries. Additionally, some of our involved volunteers are cutting back. All of these have made us realize, once again, “the poor will be with us always.”

Once again, when I opened the doors at 5:00 A.M. on October 5, 2019 there were 4 mothers waiting for us. When events like this happen it always brings me back to a talk I gave at a church concerning the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope. Someone asked, “What’s it like to work in your ministry?” Without any hesitation at all I said, “I am like a sand castle maker at the seashore. Every morning I go out to the seashore and build sand castles and when evening comes, I go home. The next morning when I go out to build more sand castles, all the ones I made yesterday were gone, washed away by the tide, so I start all over building a new set of sand castles.” 

When I look forward, I see the need for volunteers who can take on some program responsibilities, not many maybe two or three at the most, because of the growth we have been experiencing. All of a sudden we need a volunteer to handle the administrative tasks of the ministry. We are chasing the city trying to get tax exemptions for our refugee property, the DOT is now on us and we can’t get a straight answer whether we are exempt or not, or find an accountant that can help us reduce our $7,000 in accounting firm fees just to do our taxes. All of this activity takes Kathy and I away from the running of the day-to-day operations of our ten programs.

We also have to face the formidable task of finding new donors. As life goes on, donors reduce their contributions or die off leaving a drop in our donations. All the while our everyday costs, like electricity, taxes, gas, and just about everything else go up. I would ask that you once again look into becoming a sustainer. We are only asking for $5.00 per month. It is secure, easy to set up, and carefree. All you need to do is to go to our webpage and click on sustainer, or on the appeal section on the last page of our newsletter and you are in.

We are already collecting items for the Flea market which will be starting, Saturday, May 2, 2020 and, yes, we are looking for volunteers to help set up, starting at 6:00 A.M. for 2 hours and closing down, starting at 1:30 P.M., for 2 hours every week until September 26, 2020. 

Finally, I can’t let you go without reminding you of our Lenten fund raiser, the Fast of Hermas! Get ready to make your pledge. You really did a great job last year with over $1,800 in pledges.

Theology on Demand

Working as the LittleStore manager has been a great opportunity for me. Not only have I been able to get practical experience (and sharpen my skills working on the website and newsletter), but I have also had daily contact with a great pool of volunteers and employees here at 242 Canterbury Street. 

It has also worked wonders for my prayer life. We are blessed to have a chapel upstairs, and every week we all have the opportunity to get together for a prayer meeting. This weekly prayer meeting (Tuesdays at noon, and open to all)  is an excellent way for us all to take a break from the work week, and remind ourselves what we are working and volunteering for. I often wind up leaving the prayer meeting feeling invigorated and ready to tackle the week’s remaining challenges.


The Apostolate Cross

Having noticed how much I enjoyed the weekly prayer meetings, I have begun to spend as much time as possible in environments that remind me of them. There is, of course, Sunday Mass, but there are also many other opportunities that present themselves if you’re willing to keep an eye out for them. For instance, I have started attending a monthly catholic young adults group here in Worcester. 

This monthly group is always an enjoyable occasion, and they offer several different events making it very easy to fit one or multiple in your schedule. The events I have attended recently took place at a small bar near St. John’s church in downtown Worcester. There is often an excellent talk on theology, and every once in a while, trivia night! As much as I enjoy trivia (and I do), it is the talks that keep me coming back every month for more.

Last month, I had the great privilege of hearing a talk on the Catholic theology surrounding the Virgin Mary, the very inspiration of our ministry at 242 Canterbury Street. I really wish I could share that talk with all of you, it has been with me every day since. The speaker was moving, engaging, and best of all quoted from the bible next to him the entire evening. He spoke forcefully, with clarity, on the role that the Virgin Mary plays in our lives as Catholics.

For me, time seemed to slip away as I was immersed in the theology and faith on display. The talk wound its way through the Bible, from Genesis to the New Testament, and it seems every book in the Bible had something to say on the special relationship between Our Lady and the Lord. For me, one of the most touching examples was when the angel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary with the greeting, “Hail, full of grace.” It is a greeting distinct from almost every other time an angel speaks with a person in the Bible, and I am glad the speaker touched on it.

From the fall in the garden of Eden all the way to Calvary, the speaker had something profound to tell us about the Virgin Mary. It strengthened a particularly difficult part of my faith, the reverence with which we hold the Virgin Mary and saints. Anyone who has discussed theology with non-catholic friends (as I have many times!) can tell you that this is a thorny issue. However, after a night of direct bible readings and inspiring speech, I feel well-equipped and firm in my beliefs. 

The talk left me not only feeling energized about my faith, but wanting for more. After combing the internet, I discovered a series of talks by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Many of these centered on the Virgin Mary, and if you are unfamiliar with the late archbishop’s work, I heavily encourage you to gather together some favorite snacks and settle in to hear him speak for a while. If you are looking for an easy way to access his material, I was able to find a great amount of it on youtube.

Listening to a variety of talented speakers, for me at least, is an unmatched way to feel more invigorated and active in my faith. However you interact with your faith, by volunteering, engagement in weekly Mass, or solitary prayer, I hope you find some time this week for yourself and your faith!

The Director’s Chair


Christmas is upon us!!  Once again the door went up at 5:00 A.M. on October 5, 2019 and there were four mothers waiting to sign up their children for Christmas gifts. And so it begins! We will be taking names every Saturday until the first Saturday of December. We are also taking names for five Sundays starting October 13, 2019.  Needless to say, we need your help getting this work done.

You should all have received your invitation to our 40th Anniversary Celebration on October 26, 2019. We hope you have a chance to join us for a very busy day stating with Mass, then lunch, a few speakers and a bunch of awards and a coffee and a mingling session to close the day.

We are constantly updating our web page. Jeff has added a number of new pages concerning volunteer opportunities. Take a look, just go to our web site www.urbanmissionaries.com and click on the Careers button. There you will see all of the current opportunities that we need to fill so that this ministry to “the least, the last, and the left out” can continue to grow. If you yourself cannot help us, maybe you know someone who might be able to fill a position because they are retired or have some extra energy and have the heart for this kind of work. Think about it, who knows who may pop into your mind!

Once again, I want to tell you about our volunteers from Young Neighbors in Action. First of all, each of these groups did a fantastic job at whatever tasks we asked them to do. Here are some of the tasks they took on:  bottles and cans redemption, cut brush along our fence line, found someone living under the bridge which abuts our property, mowed the lawn, swept the parking lot, took turns working the counter in the store, hung clothing, and sorted incoming boxes stored in the shed. Yup, they were busy as bees!!!

We got ready for Christmas by clearing everything out of the shed and putting it into basement storage for the winter so we can start setting up the shed to receive all those family bags of toys. There will be some 1,200 bags and they take up every square inch of space in the shed. This sounds so simple, but let me assure you that it took us four hours with ten young men to get the job done. In fact, we still have a lot of yard sale stuff to hang on for next year’s flea market.

Christmas Appeal Letter 2019

Welcome to the Christmas Season! Once again, we are reaching out to you for a donation of your hard earned cash so that we can continue our Christmas Giving Program. 

Every year, we tell you a story about a special moment that made all of us who were volunteering stop whatever we were doing and smile. We have come to call these “our Christmas moments.” This year I want to explain to you just how important your gift to us is, and how hard we work before we spend any of it on Christmas toys.

We do a lot of shopping for gifts, especially for the eleven to fourteen year olds because these gifts are usually too expensive for families to purchase and so these tags are the ones we get back from the giving trees. 

So to solve this problem, we have a shopper.  Meg heads out the week after Christmas, sometimes even before New Years to shop and she is looking for bargains. Every five to eight weeks during the year, I get an email from her letting me know her two car garage needs to be emptied. And off I go, with our truck, to Orange, MA to do the pickup and bring the gifts back to 242 Canterbury St. where we store them to await unpacking, sorting, and finally bagging for that special child.

Just a couple of examples of her work. This year she bought seventy-five 3X and 4X winter coats for $17.00 each! These coats can easily cost ninety dollars or more. AS another example, she purchased Christmas toys, the retail price for this purchase was $590.69. Meg paid $29.69. This is a copy of the receipt’s total. The receipt was almost two feet long!

So once again, we ask for your help this Christmas Season. You can use the self-addressed envelope enclosed with this letter to send your donation to us. You can also go to our website, www.urbanmissionaries.com and click on the green donate button to make a secure electronic donation from your checking or savings account or the orange donate button to make a secure donation using PayPal, either one works.

ATTENTION: For those of you who do year-end tax planning, please keep us in mind

Whichever way you decide to be a “Christmas Angel” is fine. Your donation will be greatly appreciated by us and the families who reap the benefit of your donation. It might be a favorite toy, or even a needed winter jacket. Whichever it is, thank you!

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year to you and yours from us and “the least, the last, and the left out” we have been blessed to serve.

The Christmas Giving Committee

Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope

www.urbanmissionaries.com

Remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season!!

John Johnson Memorial

It is with great sadness that we inform you all that a beloved volunteer, John, passed away last month. John was a constant fixture in The LittleStore, and the staff remember him fondly. The men and women who volunteer here and give of themselves and their time can tell you it is no easy task. There is a constant need for help here, and John filled it every week with a smile and, so often, a joke.

We can tell you that John always thought of the little things. Lost screws and bolts didn’t stay lost long when John was on the job.  Whenever he found something while sweeping the store, he would bring it to us, so we could repair the item it was from. It is for those little things we will miss him most. We especially miss the thoughtful way he helped ensure every item was fit for the people we serve. 

One place John never missed visiting every time he came was our meditation room.  John always came upstairs for our weekly prayer services and it is here at our service that some of us miss him most of all.  

Please say a prayer for John and his family. 

Rest in peace, John.

What Urban Missionaries Do

All I can say is, it was “a day from hell!” Usually when you get to this part of Streetlights you find a story about those we help, their struggles, problems, or dilemmas and how we helped. Well this one is about me, the Flea market, and all the things that conspired to make this day, a day we will never forget, “a day from hell” You have had days like this, everyone does, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Let me begin with some background material. Every Saturday, starting on the first Saturday of May until the last Saturday of September, we have a Flea market in the parking lot. This was our seventh year and we now draw a crowd of about 150 people. We have always had enough items to sell so that we hardly ever have the same items from week to week. This keeps bringing people back every week because they know that they will be seeing different items from prior weeks.

I have my ritual. Starting on Sunday, I start looking at the weather forecast to see if any rain will be upon us on Saturday. I noticed a 20% chance of rain late in the day was being forecasted for this particular Saturday. “OK,” I thought, “maybe we will be able to run the Flea before the rains come.”  The problem is, if it rains while I have everything out on the tables electronics, books and clothing all get ruined. We need to repack everything and all the boxes need to be thrown away. It’s a mess, a big mess. It also takes an hour and a half to two hours to get everything set and ready for sale. It takes another two hours to close down and put everything away. You get the picture, why go through all this work and then have it rain.  I knew I would have to make a go or no go decision later in the week.

On Friday night, I watched the weather forecast.  “Saturday will be cloudy in the 70’s with rain starting after 10 P.M.” so said the weatherman. Off to bed I go, and when I get up at 3:00 P.M. I check the weather on my most trusted site, NOAA. “Cloudy in the mid 70’s with rain after 9:00 P.M.” was the forecast. So I made an executive decision for the day, it’s a go for the Flea! As I was driving in, I notice that everything was dry, a good sign, but it is still pitch black out, so I was still going to have to wait and see once the sun starts to rise before I make the final decision to go or not. It was 5:15 A.M. when I checked the weather again. The forecast was the same, so I decided to go. 

I open up as usual and we were all set up by 7:00 A.M. when the first customers started to arrive. Some of them made the comment, “I thought you wouldn’t be open today because of the rain.” they said. I replied, “Well the forecast is for rain to hold off until 9:00 P.M. tonight, so I decided to go for it.” 

The day was going well and Joe, my helper who comes in at 6:00 A.M. to help me set up, left for lunch at 10:30 A.M. and I expected him back at 12:00 P.M. to help me close down. It was about 11:45 A.M. when Kathy came out and told me that Joe was on the way to the hospital with chest pains! “Good grief,” I thought. Without Joe it would take me three hours to close down. I said to Kathy, “I am going to start putting things away now, so that when you come out at 1:30 P. M. I will be ready to work with you closing down. So Kathy headed back into the office to continue with her work and I started packing up the big items into gaylord boxes in between helping customers.

At about 12:40 P.M. as I was putting things into the gaylord box I felt a drop a rather large drop of rain right in the middle of my forehead. Then, it started. First it was a light rain and it would stop and start, but no matter, things were getting wet. So I started to place some plastic coverings over the tables and some of the gaylord boxes. Then it picked up and it was raining harder and the wind kicked in blowing the coverings all over the place as I was racing around trying to put them back in place and find something to hold them in place. It wasn’t very long before I realized I was “up  a creek without a paddle.” Plus, I was getting very very wet.

At 1:30 P.M. Kathy came out to help. As she was walking towards me I could see a somewhat confused look on her face. “When did it start raining?” she asked. “About 45 minutes ago,” I replied. We continued packing things up, trying to find dry boxes we could use. We had to throw out all of the clothing, books and paper goods. We had to go around and empty all of the dishware, glasses, cups, pots and pans, anything that could hold water before we packed them into boxes so they could be stored. And yes, it was raining all the time we were doing this. It finally stopped raining and we got everything packed ready to be put away. At this point, I had Kathy head back to the office to count up the day’s receipts. Once things are packed and the boxes are on pallets I can get it all put away in the shed using the forklift. I finally finished putting all the rubbish into rubbish container. Once everything is in storage, I closed the overhead door in the shed I headed back to the store and lo and behold the sun came out!! I looked up to the heavens and yelled, “YOU gotta be kidding me.” I turned around and went into the store.

As I came into the office, Kathy was just standing there. We looked at each other and started to laugh. There we were, both soaking wet from head to toe. My hoodie was so wet that it was hanging down to my knees. All we could say as we were drying ourselves off was “What a day, What a day.”  and laugh some more.

That night I stayed up to listen to the weather report. The forecast showed bright sunshine for next Saturday. “Cool beans,” I thought as I headed for bed.

40th Anniversary Celebration

Can you believe it? It has been forty years since that day in October 1979 when Kathy and I,  listening to Fr. Paul Tougas, director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, ask for volunteers to help in sponsoring a Vietnamese family, looked at each other and said, “Yes.”  We have been saying “yes” ever since.

Now it is time for us to pause and celebrate what the Lord has done for us. In looking back, it is unbelievable the gift of grace that has poured down upon our work. It is staggering. The number of people we had the honor to serve, the piles and piles of Christmas gifts distributed, the thousands and thousands of pounds of food given, the hundreds of candidates for citizenship tutored and most important of all, the thousands of volunteers who came to help others, and this is just for starters.

For this celebration, we are going to start with Mass and follow it with a sit-down dinner, followed by a sharing by some of the people whom we helped. Then we are going to pass out thank you gifts to many of the people who helped us get this far.

Our hope is that you will save the date, October 26, 2019, and make plans to come to Saint Joan of Arc Church,570 Lincoln Street, Worcester MA  01605 and celebrate with us starting at 11:00 A.M. and finishing up with coffee and until 4:00 P.M. Please R.S.V.P. by email – mailbox@urbanmissionaries.com or telephone 508-831-7455. This is a free-will offering event.

Saint Anthony’s Prayer

(Hi everyone! This is Jeffrey Hall. For a change of pace, I thought I would include an article from my point of view about my work as our Retail Operations Manager. I’m happy to share my first article on the web blog, and I hope you all enjoy!)

We were in the middle of a heatwave, furiously sorting through clothes when it happened. Our back store operations employee approached me at the end of her shift, and just by the look on her face, I could tell something was wrong. “I think I lost my phone,” she said. Immediately, I felt my stomach drop to the region somewhere around my ankles. She had been working in the back of the store all day, and if she misplaced it there, we were in trouble.

If you’ve ever visited 242 Canterbury street, you may have been impressed by the general organization and cleanliness in the front of the store. We receive basketfuls of donations every week, and quite a lot of furniture as well. It is no easy task to sort through it and prepare it all for people in need, but the store staff works together to get it done every day. 

It is no stretch, however, to say that the front store is neater and more organized than back store operations. Back store operations are where all the incoming donations go, and as a result, if we have an influx of clothing or other donations, it can become somewhat messy while we prepare it all for the front store. Well, on this particular fine, muggy Thursday we had a massive amount of clothing, and our brave back store employee had just finished going through a great deal of it with a little volunteer help.

We had probably gone through thirty or forty large trash bags of clothing this shift, and now our teammate’s phone could be in any one of them. Right away, I sent her to search her car, while I gave a general lookover of the back store. I was really only delaying the inevitable; I was hoping that the phone could be found with a minimum of mess. No such luck or this would have been a very short article.

She quickly came back from searching her car, not having found her phone, and I told her that I had also had no luck. Slowly, reluctantly, we looked over at the looming mountain of clothing bags we had earlier sorted through. Wordlessly, we started tearing them open. Bags of clothing came apart at the speed of sound, the volunteer who had helped us earlier joined in, and we started to make quick work of our impossible task.

We quickly developed a system where I would take the bags down off the carts, Our back store employee would open them and dump them out, and our volunteer would pat the clothing down searching for the phone. As quick as we worked, it was simply too much. It had taken us all day to neatly arrange that pile, and while breaking things down is easier than building them, we were staring down the end of the back store employee’s shift.

After bringing down the tenth or so bag of clothing, I began to feel a certainty that we were going about this all wrong. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew deep in my heart we were never going to find that phone in those bags. I suddenly had a memory of my mother telling me all about Saint Anthony, who helps to find things that are lost. My mother loves to pray for Saint Anthony’s intervention, and I cannot even count the number of times she has successfully prayed for his aid.

However, I always had difficulty seeking out help with what I always told myself were problems to small to concern anyone else, especially Saint Anthony, who I assumed must be too busy for me to bother with a lost key or wallet. Now though, I was really desperate, a lot of good work was being undone, and my back store employee was noticeably distraught over the loss of her phone. Given the circumstances, I thought, maybe it would be ok to ask Saint Anthony this time. 

To my horror, I realized I had completely forgotten the Saint Anthony prayer my mother had taught me, and that I heard several times a year every year of my life so far. I racked my brain, but it just wasn’t coming. So, I just thought about Saint Anthony and tried to tell him that I was in dire need of finding this particular lost thing. After my prayer, I realized that while I had given the back store a general look over, the main table had become covered in incoming donations over the course of the day.

I told the back store employee to search the table, while the volunteer and I continued searching the bags. Minutes later, we heard a triumphant cry and turned to see the employee holding her phone over her head. We had found it!

So there you have it, I think I learned that day that there is no prayer too small and that the act of reaching out to God and His Saints for the small things in your life just shows how complete your trust is in Him. If you get into the habit of leaving the small things to Him, then you have taken the first steps to build the habit of leaving the big things to Him as well.

I’ll leave off by wishing you all a great prayer life, and hoping that you all remember to build the habit of reaching out for the small things. I’ll also leave you with the prayer to Saint Anthony (which I had to ask my mother for and received an earful for) just in case you wish to start with this miraculous and beloved Saint. 

“Blessed Saint Anthony,

please come around.

Something is lost,

but now must be found.”

What Urban Missionaries Do

Did you ever hear the phrase WWJD? Well, I have more times than I would care to admit. It translates to “What Would Jesus Do?” It has been used in the past to teach young adults a method of determining how they should respond to life’s issues. I used to have some fun toying with the many different answers that would come to mind when I would bump up against one of life’s little dilemmas. Over time, I thought of it less and less until it faded way back in my memory.

Then along comes the St. Stephen Housing Initiative and with it the issue of having to evict two tenants from their homes. First of all, let me explain why this dramatic action was necessary. The purpose of the Saint Stephen Housing Initiative is to provide a place for newly arrived refugees, immigrants, or asylees. After some heated debate, and some legal advice, it was decided that the best course of action was to replace the current tenants with families that fit our profile.

The family on the first floor offered to move right away if we could help them with the first month’s rent and security deposit for a new apartment they had found. Having no experience with these matters, we turned to our attorney who simply stated that this is a “cash for keys” transaction and it would expedite the process. For us, it was a case of extortion! They were simply holding us up, but under some pressure to do the right thing, we made the payment and the tenants moved out without further delay and a refugee family moved in on May 1st.

The third floor was empty when we bought the building and we only had to purchase a washer and dryer and do some plumbing work to get it ready so we had a family move into it on June 1st.

Ok, two down and one to go. The family on the second floor was a Section 8 tenant. They told us that they had secured an apartment, but it needed to be inspected by Section 8 before they could move into it, so they requested a one-week extension before they could move. We agreed. The week went by and then another still no word from them as to when they would vacate the apartment.

Then we got a letter from Section 8 stating the apartment was inspected and there were some issues that need to be taken care of before the inspector would return – tomorrow!  This was completely new to us, so I made plans to meet with the inspector when he came. He was a pleasant fellow of sorts and reviewed the problems. The refrigerator door handle was missing and the bedroom was missing a screen in the apartment. Then we went to inspect the basement. Here he found that we had an electrical connection box where a wire had been cut, and we needed a co2 detector. These were high priority items and were required by federal law to be fixed within 24 hours.

As he was writing up his notes, I asked him why he was doing this inspection when the Section 8 people told me they were not responsible for this family because the tenant had told them they were moving by May 1st and they would only be required to pay the April rent for the tenant. The inspector was immediately defensive and called his boss. “Do the inspection,” his boss said, and then they would contact Section 8.  I could tell he was not a happy camper as he hurriedly left the basement and didn’t even say good-bye. The last thing he did say was,”you have 24 hours to get these items fixed!

When I got back to my office, I immediately called Section 8 housing and left a message. They called me back and when I explained what happened the Section 8 representative told me, “that inspection was a routine process and the paperwork to cancel it probably had not caught up with the inspection company and not to worry. The problem is that we are now one month without rent and no hint of when this family is going to vacate. The next week, I received two letters on the same day, one from the inspection company stating they had found a number of new violations that needed to be resolved within 24 hours and the other from Section 8 stating there were no outstanding violations in the building. 

By this time, I started to figure out that we were being played by the tenant. Every time we would meet them before I could ask them when they would be leaving they would complain about “those people” do this or that. I found myself constantly defending the new tenants. By now, I was getting somewhat agitated and had thoughts that ran along the lines of, “if they were good people, they would have moved, but instead they were living in our apartment and not paying rent. What kind of people are they?” I found myself really taking a dislike to them.

As I was plotting these ideas in my mind, the thought came to me, “What would Jesus do? “Where did this come from?” I can remember thinking. I want these people out of the apartment, now, and now I find myself thinking, really what would Jesus do?  As I pondered this question, I found that I really had no idea of what Jesus would do in this situation. As you can imagine I had a number of scriptural passages pass through my mind. “Render unto Ceaser,” or the one where Philip and John wanted to call down fire to destroy those who didn’t listen to Jesus, etc, etc. None of these treasured passages really soothed the wild beast in me. All I  could think of was how “those people” were not behaving the way “good people” behave in this situation. This dilemma rolled around in my head for over a month with no satisfactory solution.

Finally, after much prayer and pondering, I decided that we needed to go to court and have the family removed. I told the tenants what I was going to do. They immediately countered with, “pay us the first, last month’s rent and the security deposit for our new apartment and we will leave. I countered with, “you owe us two and a half months rent, why should I pay you anything else?” Immediately, I saw the shock on their faces! “What?” they said, “Section 8 pays the rent.’ “No, you told them you were leaving on May first so they stopped paying the rent.”

It was then I realized what really was happening. They thought the rent was being paid, so didn’t understand our complaint. We weren’t getting paid, so we wondered what was wrong with these people? I said, “I am sorry, but I have no choice but to have the court remove you, and if the court does issue the order to remove you, you are in jeopardy of losing your section 8 voucher.” Upon hearing this, they both paled and immediately closed the door to their apartment.

A week later, I got a phone call from the tenant, they were moving out and wanted to schedule a walk through and to give us the keys to the apartment the next morning. I arrived with Alex, our LittleStore clerk, who could speak Spanish if I needed to explain things. When the tenant arrived she gave me the keys to the doors, but would not come into the apartment because she was going to be late for work so she hurriedly went down the stairs and out into the parking lot behind the house.

“It was done,” I thought, but I still had that nagging question in my head, “What would Jesus do?” 

Christmas Giving Program 2019

Once again, I have to awaken that Christmas spirit in you, and I do know some of you are thinking, “This is way too soon!” I assure you we must be on our way, for too soon the winds will be cold and the trees barren and the signs of Christmas will begin to show.

As always, we are reaching out to you for your time and money. Without both of these we cannot do Christmas. So here is the plan to date.

Again this year we need:

NAME TAKERS:

I need volunteers to take names of the children and gift requests.  If you can use windows, a mouse, and can type at all, we could use your help.  Call us at 508-831-7455 or email us at mailbox@urbanmissionaries.com, to determine when you could schedule some time.  Please let us know the date and time you would like to come, how long you can stay and if you are bringing anyone else with you. We need this information so we can make sure we do not double up on the schedule

Dates:

Every Saturday starting October 5th, 2019, from 5:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. until December 1st, 2019 and on the following Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. October 13h, 20st, 27th, November 3th. 2019

BAG MAKERS, SORTERS, GIFT PASSER-OUTERS and SITE WORKERS:

We need volunteers to bag incoming gifts and then distribute them. We will be working at the distribution site from December 7th to December 23rd from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. We will need a lot of help on Sunday, December 98th, and Sunday, December 15th. On these days, gifts come in from the churches and we will need every bit of help we can get. We also need help from December 16th until December 22th especially, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., on December 23rd from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and on December 24th from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.  This is when most of the people come to pick up their gifts.

SPECIAL WORKERS:

This year we are looking for some very special people who can help us on December 22, 23, and 24. It is this time when the neediest come to sign up for Christmas gifts. Usually we have to turn them away, not because we don’t have any gifts, but because we do not have any volunteers to make up gift bags for them. If you think you are one of these special Christmas helpers and are willing to take on this challenge let us know either via email at mailbox@urbanmissionaries.com or telephone, 508-831-7455.

We will be working out of 242 Canterbury Street, Worcester MA 01603

As always, your friends, neighbors and any willing strangers you may meet on the way are most welcome.

May your Christmas be blessed because of what you are about to do.

From the Director’s Chair

Well, we are coming out of our winter time and things are heating up as spring approaches. We have been busily working on a number of projects that address the growth that we have experienced over the past three years. We have re-organized our department structure, added two new outreach programs, Outreach to the Elderly and St. Stephen Housing Initiative, all while moving our computer information to “the cloud” as they say.

As we look towards spring, we are planning our Summer Flea market, the annual sustainer drive, and in the summer we await the arrival of the Young Neighbors in Action groups, the annual retreat for Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope in August, and the celebration of our fortieth anniversary as a social action ministry in the Diocese of Worcester.

We, also have been busily re-working our website, www.urbanmissionaries.com. Might I suggest you take a look and see the fine work Jeff Hall has done for us? But, knowing us you already realize that we are not satisfied with the site and so we have Jeff typing away, adding corrections, some amplification, and those new and exciting additions to the site. Couple this with the work being done by a group of Bryant University students as a class project updating our Facebook presence, our advertising program for Google and Facebook, as well as developing a new website for the LittleStore at www.the-little-store.com and you start to see that things are popping around here.

The Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope are working on membership and the future direction of the ministry. Our hope is to expand the number of people who join us in doing little works of charity for “the least, the last, and the left out.” If you would like some information concerning the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope and the work we do, just email us at mailbox@urbanmissionaries.com and we will get back to you.

We hope you will join us for our fortieth celebration. We will be sending out invitations in September and we wish you and yours a very Happy Easter.

Saint Stephen Housing Initiative

Once again we are taking on a larger than life problem, the housing of newly arrived refugees, immigrants, and asylees. Since our very beginning, we have struggled with this problem. When refugees and asylees arrive, there is a great rush to find them a place to live. As you can imagine, given that they have no job, or any other means of support, life gets difficult fast. It is very rare that landlords are willing to waive the first and last month’s rent, along with the security deposit. In Worcester, this could equal anywhere from $2,400 to $3,600 or more to get an apartment. The newly arrived receive $200+ per person in the family from the government.  The only way around this problem is to find a house where newly arrived refugees and asylees could receive proper housing amenities at a reasonable price point. After dealing with landlords, who, understandably, wish to profit from their properties, we came to understand that we would need to buy a three-decker and set up the game in favor of the renters. Of course, whenever we told people about this plan they would immediately tell us that we were crazy and it would never work. We knew that we could never do it simply because we didn’t have the money!

Well, along came an angel who offered to provide the monies to purchase a three-decker and have a sizable maintenance fund. It took us over six months to finalize our strategy and get our board of directors to sign off on the idea, although we did sense a certain level of skepticism at the time.

We decided that we would not collect the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit, that the rent would be $800.00 per month, and the family could live there for up to eight years before having to move either to their own home or another rental. For this accommodation, the tenant would agree to participate in three courses. The first course would be on the rights of tenants and the responsibilities of landlords. The second course would cover financial management and the use of banks. The third course would be for those families wanting to buy a home of their own. This course would cover mortgages, credit scores, and home insurance.

We also decided that tenants would be selected using a lottery. We would gather prospective tenants from the various sponsoring agencies in the central Massachusetts area. The lottery winners would then be offered a lease for one of our apartments.

The final piece of this puzzle was what to call the program. As you might have guessed, we named it after Saint Stephen, a deacon and the first martyr of the church. It will be known as St. Stephen’s Housing Initiative. Our first house is located at 31 Colton Street, Worcester MA.

Currently, we are working with two families who will move in before June. We are interviewing a third family and we expect they will move in July. These families are Karens or Kerenini from Myanmar formerly Burma. Remember to keep our ministry and our new program in your prayers!

Deacon Bruce R. Vidito

My first memory of Bruce is when I was studying for the diaconate program at Barlin Acres in West Boylston. He was the maintenance man. He was a hulk of a man with red hair and a broad easy smile. As time went by, I had more and more occasion to work with him on various project for my fledgling ministry. Bruce would always say yes whenever I asked for his help.

After his ordination to the diaconate, I would spend time with him whenever we went to the annual diaconate retreat. I liked to sit next to him because he had a beautiful singing voice which I loved to listen to. He also was a great hugger. Whenever it comes time for the sign of peace or some other opportunity to hug, Bruce would put those big lumberjack arms around me, pick me up off the floor and then shake me like I was a rag doll, laughing all the while.

Our paths continued to cross every once and a while, and the conversation would just pick up where it left off as if it were ten seconds ago that we stopped talking. Then late last year, I got a call from a mutual friend telling me that Bruce was very sick. I immediately called him, but I reached Pauline his wife, and she told me Bruce had stage four colon cancer. This just about knocked me off my feet. Big strong Bruce, sick, it just didn’t compute. I told Pauline how sorry I was for Bruce, her and the family and if there was anything I could do to help to let me know.

I called Bruce a few days later and was able to speak with him for a few minutes. He still had that song in his voice, but I could tell he wasn’t feeling very well. I told him I was praying for him and his family and I was available if they needed anything. We said good-bye, both of us knowing this would be the last time we would speak. It surely is tough to say good-bye!

What Urban Missionaries Do

You have heard me say many times in the past, “there is no such thing as an easy day.” When Kathy and I were on vacation in early March, I received a message from the office that Cindy called and was very upset because of her 32-year-old niece had died. I immediately dialed Cindy’ number and after a few rings I heard, “Hello.” “Cindy, this is Walter Doyle calling,” I said and in a voice racked with pain and sobbing I heard, “Walt, my niece died this morning” and then I was unable to understand what Cindy was trying to tell me because she was trying to talk and sob at the same time. Finally, I interrupted her and told her I would be home in two days and would call her then.

When I arrived home, I called Cindy. This time she was more composed and I was able to get the full story. Her niece was 32 and died from pancreatic cancer. She had checked herself out of the hospital deciding it was of no use when it became evident she was going to die. She went home and laid on her bed for three days and on the third day she went to sleep and never woke up.

Cindy then told me how her niece was getting her life together in the past year. She had met a wonderful guy who respected her and didn’t beat her as her first husband did. She had gotten away from the booze and drugs and she was working hard to get herself a job so she could support herself and her 9-year-old son. And then this happened! I just listened to the whole story and when Cindy finished all I could hear was her sobbing.  After a while I said, “Cindy what can we do to help?” “Can I come and talk to you later? The family doesn’t know what they are going to do. They are trying to raise money to have her buried,” she said. “OK,” I said, “How about you stop by tomorrow and we can talk?” “OK,” she replied, “I will see you tomorrow, thanks, Walt.”

When Cindy arrived the next afternoon she walked into the office came right up to me, hugged me and burying her head on my chest started to bitterly sob. We stayed like that for a good fifteen minutes before she started to regain her composure. Then Cindy recounted the whole story to me once again. When she finished explaining everything that had happened and what the current situation was, she asked if I could help out with the flowers.  The family had pulled together the monies for the funeral, but there wouldn’t be enough to buy flowers. “Yes, we can do the flowers, just let me know where to send them by what date and we will take care of it for the family,” I said. “I will Walt,” she replied. “And if you would like me to do a burial service for her as I did for your mother, let the family know and get back to me if they say it is OK,” I said. Cindy nodded yes, and then hugged me for another 5 minutes before she said, “Thanks Walt, I will get back to you as soon as I get the answers for you,” and then she left.

A few days later, Cindy called and affirmed the flowers and the service would be fine with the family and then she gave me the time and place for the funeral service. I thanked her and said, “Cindy we are praying for you and the family. We hope it will help you through this most difficult of times.”

The night of the burial service, I met a number of the family that I had not seen since their mother passed away, and I did the burial service. Most of the people there looked like they were in shock. Everyone said the same thing, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe she died.” I finally heard that she would be cremated and her mother was going to keep her ashes in her home. It was a very difficult burial service but I had prepared a short homily, and then I invited anyone who wanted to say something to come up and speak. Three people spoke about this very vibrant young woman full of energy and a love of life. The most difficult part was when her nine-year-old son came up and stood looking at his mother and whispered, “Good-bye mom.”

It is a situation like this that makes me stop and think about how fragile life really is, and how none of us really know the time when we will be called home. I haven’t seen or heard from Cindy since, but I pray for her and the family daily.

Saints of God, come to her aid!

Hasten to meet her, angels of the Lord!

May Christ, who called you, take you to himself;

may angels lead you to the bosom of Abraham.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon her.

Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.

Amen.

Macey’s Clothing Drive

February 2nd was a cold, cold day and rather quiet in the Little Store because of the cold.  Riley was on the front counter and Walter and I were in the back office. A call came in from the front counter, “There’s an enormous donation coming in, you’d better get out here!”  

What we found when we ran out to the front was Macey Poitras-Cote from St. Rose of Lima parish and her parents,  Pamela and Jason, unloading 2 trucks full of clothing donations. Macey was happy to describe the evolution of the “enormous” donation.

She explained that she was one of the  Young Neighbors in Action present when Walter addressed one of their meetings at St. Rose of Lima recently.  She left the meeting inspired to do something to help others but wasn’t sure what to do. Then she heard Fr. James Houston mention a clothing drive and she knew what she wanted.

She organized a clothing drive through the Young Neighbors group but then expanded the scope to include all of her town, which she involved with the help of her high school service club, Global Goals.  She collected clothing over two weeks in January and people brought donations to the church, even on the snowy Sunday when a lot of people stayed home. They even “canned” outside a supermarket a few weeks earlier to collect money to buy winter jackets for the Christmas program.

Macey, we are inspired by you and your willingness to act and accomplish something that helped a lot of people.   We thank all the people who donated and all the Young Neighbors, church members, students, teachers, who were involved in the project, and  your parents for helping you finish the task on such a cold day.

Groups, a blessing of the special kind

Our biggest source of volunteers far and away is from parishes and schools. It is also the biggest source of energy, noise, and fun times, not to mention the tremendous amount of work that gets done. Did I mention fun?

Whenever a group comes in, we always give them a tour of the facilities and explain the work that we do. This gives rise to many questions, some easy, others difficult, but the one everyone asks is, “How long have you been doing this?” When I answer, “Forty years.” I can see the shock on the faces. As one young lady put it, “That’s more than twice my age!” Yuppers, it has been a long time!

This year has been no different. We have had four groups come to help out. Each one of them put all their enthusiasm and energy into the work that needed to be done. In fact, as part of our wrap-up talk, I always tell them, “If you didn’t come and do this work today it wouldn’t get done. That’s how important your coming here today is for us.”

The Algonquin Global Group

This group comes from Algonquin High School in Northborough, MA. They are students that make a difference by helping others. They heard about us from Macey, who I met one night when I was giving a talk to the Young Neighbors in Action group at St. Rose of Lima Parish. After I finished giving the talk, she approached me and asked a few questions about our work. Then she told me she would like to come and help out some time, so I gave her my business card. Within two weeks, she called us and asked if she could come in and volunteer. “Of course,” we said and that was the start of a very helpful relationship, as well as a clothing drive she conducted. This group came for five Saturdays, there were seven students and they rotated weeks with each other.

Saint Mary’s Parish, Shrewsbury MA

We had two groups from Saint Mary’s. The first group had five students and a parent. They started our big clean project. When we moved into this building, we used the second floor for Christmas storage. It has been six years now and we wanted to clean it and wash the windows. So we decided 2019 would be the year. When the Saint Mary’s group came in, they were the first to tackle this big job.

The second group had thirteen students and three leaders. Because it was such a large group we had them sorting our shed full of donations. The shed is 4,000 square feet of space filled with donations to be sorted. Did I mention this was in March and we have no heat in the shed?  They did the work with all the cheer and energy they could muster. They made a very big dent in the piles stacked up in the shed.

Saint Peter Marian High School, Worcester MA

This was a group of five students and one leader. Since they came in on the next weekend after the Saint Mary’s group we put them to work sorting donations in the shed. They caught on to the system we have for sorting very quickly and within a three-hour period they also made a big dent in the piles of donations in the shed and yes, they also worked without heat.

The Coppinger Family

Finally, we also received a great deal of help from the Coppinger family. Phil Coppinger, and his two sons, came in to help, and they came ready! As you may have gathered from reading about the other groups, the shed has been in quite a state for some time now, and the Coppingers were the first to help take some of the pressure off. They very helpfully placed a lot of furniture from the shed into the LittleStore, and made it immediately available to our local community. There was such a great demand for the furniture they helped bring into the store, that people were taking some of the pieces home the very next day.

In addition to helping in the shed, the Coppingers also helped organize our furniture area, and test some electronics as well. The LittleStore had never looked so orderly!