2/12/2013 12:14:00 PM Volunteers are central to ministry
Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Volunteers Pat Guss, Elaine Bergmann guide Liza Birrer as she cares for Scott Lewis at foot care clinic.
In 2012, St. André Bessette Church volunteers gave more than 21,000 hours of their time to provide support to people surviving poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental illness.
On Feb. 6, the parish celebrated its volunteers’ holy work during a special dinner. Guests were invited to share what they do and why.
In January, volunteers from the church’s Community Programs gathered for a daylong retreat exploring the parish’s mission of hospitality, healing and hope. Participants built community over coffee and pancakes in the Hospitality Center, had lunch at the Blanchet House, went on a walking tour of Old Town/China Town, and spent time in reflection and prayer as a group.
“The best part of the experience was realizing the number of other resources available to the homeless and marginalized population,” said Erin Newton, a weekly volunteer. “Walking around the area made me realize the close physical proximity of most organizations trying to give dignity to those living on the margins of society.”
Last year, the parish welcomed 49,000 individual and repeat guests (about 10,000 more than in 2011). They served 110,000 meals and provided more than 6,000 hygiene kits. Also distributed were 1,816 TriMet passes, 437 sleeping bags and 3,900 sets of clothing. Volunteers’ hours for the year equaled more than $400,000-worth of donated time, skill and energy.
Volunteers are the backbone of the church’s work, parish leaders say.
No experience is necessary and scheduling is flexible, but volunteers and groups are required to schedule their commitments prior to participating.