Naples Parish helps hungry Print this post

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

8/23/17

There are few amazing things that can be done in 63 minutes, but at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples that is exactly how much time it took on Aug. 10 for the faithful to pack some 40,000 meals.

Food is packaged on Aug. 10 during the second annual Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Event at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

“That was fun,” said one young girl who help distribute bags to the dozens of tables set up for packing food.

Approximately 350 volunteers – including groups of Scouts, high schoolers, senior citizens and young families, and everyone in between – worked in harmony for the second annual Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Event.  The 40,000 meals packed doubles the total from the 2016 event.

Food is packaged on Aug. 10 during the second annual Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Event at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

The evening started with prayer from St. John the Evangelist Pastor Father John Ludden. Father Ludden recited the Catholic Relief Services Prayer and blessed the effort of the volunteers and for those without food they will be helping.

After a few instructions, the volunteers heard a gong and got right to work. Everyone found a job to do: from filling the bags with rice, dried vegetables, soy, seasoning, and other components; to weighing each bag to ensure it had enough food to feed six people; to sealing the bags for transportation around the world; to packing the bags into boxes for their travel to Africa; and finally putting the boxes on pallets ready for shipment.  Additional volunteers ran food or the bags around from station to station. 

During the second annual Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Event at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples, Pastor Father John Ludden carries a full box of food that will be shipped to needy families in Africa.

The synchronized effort paid off quickly as the 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and then the 40,000 level was reached. When the final gong went off the exhausted volunteers cheered for their amazing accomplishment.  Among the volunteers were members of other faith groups, neighborhoods, and even sports teams from across the Naples area, all inspired to work toward a common goal.

“This was really wonderful and inspiring to see people gather together to help their brothers and sisters in Christ,” Father Ludden said of the turnout of volunteers and the frenetic pace that was put into getting the work done. “I can’t wait until next year.”

Stacks of boxes filled with food packed on Aug. 10 during the second annual Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands Event at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

Catholic Relief Services Helping Hands provides meals to refugee camps and starving families internationally. The food packaged at the St. John the Evangelist Parish event will be distributed to Burkina Faso, a landlocked country of about 17 million in West Africa, where orphans and other vulnerable suffer from chronic hunger because of cyclical drought and flooding in the region.

The day was coordinated through Rise Against Hunger (the organization that builds these meal programs), for Catholic Relief Services.

Scattered throughout the Parish Hall, where the packing event took place, were images from Jesuit Father Don Doll, a priest photographer who has supported the Jesuit Refugee Services with his artistic gifts by traveling to various refugee camps and capturing the plight of those attempting to live in conditions that are almost unlivable.  The images provided a stark reminder to the volunteers about why the meals were needed. Additionally, everyone was informed that woman from Burkina Faso was present and was overcome with joy by the efforts of St. John the Evangelist Parish and how it would help her native land.

In addition to meal-packing events, CRS Helping Hands funds longer term, income-generating projects that allow our brothers and sisters to build a future free from hunger. CRS Helping Hands was developed as a partnership between Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now (SHN). CRS provides resources to manage events and SHN provides food, supplies and logistical expertise.

The meal-packing event was an extension of the regular activities the Parish community does to help the needy.

Other outreach efforts at St. John the Evangelist Parish include providing support for Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee. A volunteer parish group assists at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen every month. During the summer, the youth take the lead in supporting the effort, but the soup kitchen needs all the help it can get each month. In addition, the Parish supports the feeding of approximately 2,000 people in Immokalee for the annual Thanksgiving in the Park.

For more information about other outreach efforts of St. John the Evangelist Parish please visit www.saintjohntheevangelist.com; CRS at www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org; CRS Helping Hands at www.helpinghands.crs.org.

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