Each November, the Diocese takes up the Matthew 25 Collection, an undertaking that aims to alleviate homelessness, arrange healthy meals and provide clothing for people right here in our local communities.
The collection is the Church at work; monies contributed by parishioners are directed into grants for area ministries whose mission is to support men, women and children in need. Some of these organizations alleviate the burden of food insecurity. Others ensure a safe haven for moms and children and provide shelter for those who are homeless. Some work to provide less-fortunate children with warm clothing.
Collectively, 26 local ministries in communities throughout the Diocese received a combined total of $176,000 in grants this year, made possible by parishioners’ support of last year’s Matthew 25 Collection.
This year’s Matthew 25 Collection is set for November 21. It provides an opportunity to recognize and serve Jesus in others, as the Lord said in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel: “Whatever you did for one of these least, you did for me.”
Birthright of Sunbury is one of this year’s grant recipients. The pro-life organization provides clothing and items to families who need help caring for their babies, and expressed their gratitude to those who donate to the collection:
“During 2020, many lost their jobs or their work hours were reduced. However, COVID did not stop babies from being born, and Matthew 25 assisted so many families experiencing dire straits. Thank you for your love for those less fortunate. The grant was used to provide newborn layettes, crib mattresses, formula for infants and diapers.”
San Juan Bautista’s Social Action Program, which provides meals, transportation and rental assistance, was another grant recipient this year, receiving $12,000 to assist in its ministry. An individual who directly benefitted from the program expressed their appreciation, saying, “I am so grateful for the parish having a program like this to help people when life throws them a curve ball. They helped me with food and other things after a long hospital stay.”
These expressions of gratitude are among the many messages received by the Diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, which conducts the Matthew 25 Collection.
Its director, Kim Roche, remarked, “As I read the comments from the recipient organizations about how they will use the money or hear directly from a recipient who was helped (which is part of the grant application process), it makes me realize that there are remarkable organizations throughout the Diocese who are responding to needs in their community.”
“Donors can feel good knowing that their gifts in support of the Matthew 25 Collection really do make a difference to someone who needs a helping hand. From the young mom with little children who was moved into permanent housing with the support of a security deposit to the family who regularly attends a soup kitchen or food bank for food items, this is our faith in action,” she said. “Any gift, no matter the size, truly makes a difference.”
All funds collected benefit local needs. Seventy-five percent of the monies from the collection are distributed to programs within the Diocese to address the needs of the poor. Twenty-five percent of the monies are returned to parishes for their use in assisting others.
For information on how you can help support this year’s collection or to make a gift online, please visit www.hbgdiocese.org/matthew25.
2021 Grant Recipients
A total of $176,000 has been granted to the following parish-supported organizations, thanks to the generosity of donors to the Matthew 25 Collection.
A Woman’s Concern, $1,000
A Women’s Concern began more than 40 years ago when a small group of women and men decided to start an organization that empowered women and their families by giving them life-affirming options and the support they needed to thrive, all at no cost and without judgement. Many of those served by this organization don’t have the support structure at home to help them get through the early days of being a mom. The grant will be used to provide gift cards for food and immediate needs. St. Leo the Great Parish in Rohrerstown supported the grant application for A Woman’s Concern.
Birthright of Sunbury, $1,000
Birthright is a pro-life organization dedicated to reducing abortions in the Sunbury area. It also provides clothing to poverty-level families in need of baby items. Funds from the grant will allow the organization to purchase winter coats, gloves and hats for 40 of the most needy in their community. COVID has placed additional stress on the working poor and they have noticed an uptick in families needing the basics, like warm clothing. St. Monica Parish in Sunbury supported the organization’s grant application.
Brethren Housing Association, $10,000
This ministry provides transitional housing for women and children who are homeless in the Harrisburg area. Statistics indicate that the majority of people they serve have suffered some form of trauma in the past which continues to impact their lives today. The grant will support rental assistance for those moving to permanent housing. This rental assistance is directed to those who have income, but not enough to cover a deposit and first month’s rent. Their grant application was supported by St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg.
Carlisle Area Family Life Center, $2,000
CAFLC was founded in 1979 and is a crisic pregnancy and family resource center that helps women and families with their material and emotional needs. They provide free and confidential services including pregnancy testing, limited obstetric ultrasounds, lay counseling, community referrals, and maternity/baby clothes and supplies. The grant will support the center’s “Baskets for Babies” program, which provides pregnant clients with a large basket filled with all the basic baby supplies needed to welcome their little one. Many of the recipeints do not have the money to purchase these needed baby supplies. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported the center’s grant application.
Christian Churches United, $12,000
CCU’s roots were in area churches partnering together to provide emergency assistance to the general public in the wake of the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood. By the late 70s, an emergency assistance office was formalized and is now the central location in Dauphin County for homeless women and families seeking intake to emergency shelters, as well as rental assistance, utility assistance and other emergency aid for individuals and families in crisis situations. Over the years CCU has expanded to provide long-term housing and support to men who were chronically homeless, mentoring and support to ex-offenders, and various other ecumenical and community impact efforts. The grant will support CCU’s continued work to eradicate homelessness. During 2020, they experienced a 750% increase in the number of families seeking rental assistance. Their grant application was supported by St. Catherine Labouré Parish in Harrisburg.
Community CARES DBA Carlisle Cares, $8,000
Community CARES is a 501(c)(3) charity that has been assisting the homeless population with emergencey shelter, resources and supportive services since 2004. In 2009, CARES opened a Resource Center to meet the needs of residents during the day. The Resource Center is the only coordinated entry walk-in access site in Cumberland County. Cumberland Street Reach, an outreach program designed to engage, assess and assist with housing for at risk in Cumberland County, became fully operational in 2019. In 2020, Carlisle CARES provided services to 970 people through their Emergency Shelter and Street Outreach. Funding from the grant will be used to continue the overall program expenses associated with the demand for services provided by the Resource Center. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported the center’s grant application.
Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland and Perry Counties, $7,000
DVSCP is a private, non-profit organization incorporated in May 1990 and is the sole provider of safe emergency housing and services for victims of domestic violence in Cumberland and Perry Counties. The agency is funded in part by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In addition to the Emergency Shelter, the agency has a 24-hour toll-free hotline, counseling and advocacy services, assitance with obtaining a Protection from Abuse Order, accompaniment to legal and/or medical proceedings, education and community outreach, and AMEND, a batterers’ intervention program. The grant will be used to continue the overall program expenses associated with their operations. Their grant application was supported by St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle.
Ephrata Area Social Services, $5,000
Ephrata Area Social Services was established in 1971 by a group of local pastors and community members to serve the needy in the community. In 2019, their food bank served 291 families. The program is sustained by individuals, churches, corporations, grants and earnings from several endowments. The grant will be used to purchase a commercial freezer to serve residents in Reinholds – which has been identified as food desert – and provide hotel costs to house the homeless unable to stay in group settings due to COVID restrictions. The program’s grant application was supported by Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Ephrata
Guardian Angels Outreach, $8,000
Guardian Angels outreach began in 2014 serving a hot meal to 36 guests. Since then, the ministry has grown to serve more than 170 meals each week. It also distributes food pantry items and holiday food baskets and provides winter coats to needy families from the parish and community. Since the start of the pandemic, the program saw the number of meals served increase. The grant will assist the outreach in assisting with food purchases. The program’s grant application was supported by Holy Angels Parish in Kulpmont.
Lancaster County Project for the Needy, $5,000
This ministry has been distributing food boxes to families in need over the Christmas season for the past 35 years. In 2020, it distributed 2,850 food boxes to those in need in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties. The grant will support the program’s continued efforts, as it expects to see an increase in the number of food boxes as it expands to other communities in Lancaster County. The program’s grant application was supported by St. James Parish in Lititz.
Lebanon County Christian Ministries, $5,000
LCCM started as a food pantry in 1982 and now serves the entire county of Lebanon in providing food, shelter, clothing and other emergency services. FRESH Start Emergency Shelter and Resource Center opened in 2012 in partnership between LCCM and Jubilee Ministries. As of 2017, LCCM is the sole operator of the program. They serve any family facing crisis or emergency. The grant will support costs associated with hotel stays for homeless guests unable to stay in group-shelter settings because of precautions with COVID. The ministry’s grant application was supported by St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Annville.
Mary’s Helpers Food and Clothing Pantry, $10,000
Established in 2008 by Sister Sue Ann Steves, this organization serves families in the Steelton area with food and clothing needs. The grant money will be used to continue to purchase food supply items and assisting with rent and utilities on an occasional basis. Mary’s Helpers’ grant application was supported by Prince of Peace Parish in Steelton.
Morning Star Pregnancy Services, $3,000
Morning Star Pregnancy Services was founded as Birthright of Cental PA in 1972. They are a non-denominational, Christian pregnancy resource center offering life-affirming alternatives to abortion. More than 30 volunteers help provide counseling, material aid (food, clothing, diapers, etc.), health services, (pregnancy tests, ultasounds, STI testing and treatment) and referrals to other community organizations. The grant will provide funds for the organization to purchase 50 portable cribs – Pack and Plays – for those in need. The organization observed that many of their clients do not have a safe place for the children to sleep and therefore will co-sleep with their infants, creating an unsafe situation. St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg supported Morning Star’s grant application.
Off the Streets, $12,000
Off the Streets Lancaster has helped to get more than 2,700 people off the streets and out of shelters since 2013. The program has a warehouse to store furniture and a van used to facilitate moves of at least two families per week. The grant will enable the ministry to house at least 16 families by providing security deposits as the family moves out of shelters and into permanent housing. Off the Streets has seen an uptick in the number of families who are in need of shelter as the pandemic has forced many more into shelters. Their grant application was supported by St. John Neumann Parish in Lancaster.
OMPH Benevolent Society, $2,000
Founded in the 1980s, the society provides food and emergency financial assistance to families in need in the Ephrata and Denver areas. The primary objective of the Benevolent Society is the management of a community food bank, which is open every Wednesday evening. A secondary mission is to provide financial assistance to families in emergency situations. The grant will be used to continue the society’s mission of providing food and/or financial assistance to those in need. The grant application was supported by Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Ephrata.
Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, $8,000
The then-nine Catholic churches in York County established Our Daily Bread in 1983, in conjunction with the local Catholic Charities. Today, more than 60 church and civic groups participate in supplying and serving a hot entree during the week. More than 2 million meals have been served since their first day, a daily average in excess of 275 meals. The COVID pandemic required that the food be packaged in to-go containers, therefore the grant will help offset the additional costs of providing food to those who come to the organization seeking nourishment. Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in York supported the program’s grant application.
Samaritan Fellowship, $8,000
Samaritan Fellowship started in 1958 and has grown into a community-wide organization supported by 19 churches and staffed by 42 volunteers. The grant will be used exclusively for families with children who are facing eviction and homelessness. Because of the pandemic, an extensive phone interview system has been created, and partnerships with local hotels provide a discounted rate for families in need. The program’s grant application was supported by St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle.
San Juan Bautista Social Outreach Program, $12,000
This ministry, which serves less-fortunate Hispanics throughout Lancaster County, was born in 2001. It supplies monthly community meals, distributes food weekly through their food pantry, provides holiday food baskets and provides lunch and dinner to more than 500 children on a weekly basis. This program also assists people with other critical needs, such as medicine, transportation and rental assistance. Additionally, this past year they assisted displaced families relocating from Puerto Rico to Lancaster County. The funds will allow the parish to continue their outreach programs in the community. San Juan Bautista Parish in Lancaster supported the program’s application.
San Juan Bautista Summer Camp, $5,000
Founded 20 years ago, the camp takes place within church facilities and in the nearby SJB Youth and Cultural Center. The program is open for children age 5-12. The grant will support food and food-related expenses associated with the camp activities. San Juan Bautista Parish in Lancaster supported the camp’s application.
Silence of Mary, $7,000
This organization serves as a resource to those in need in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill section. It provides food, clothing, blankets, personal hygiene kits to the mentally ill, terminally ill, expectant mothers, children, homeless, refugees and immigrants. The grant will help provide resources for the “Assistance to Others” program, which operates in needy sections of Dauphin, York, Cumberland and Perry Counties. The ministry’s application was supported by Holy Infant Parish in Manchester.
St. Francis Soup Kitchen, $12,000
St. Francis Soup Kitchen serves the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg as the only place for the homeless and disadvantaged to get a hot meal. The ministry has been providing this service since 1980 and now serves more than 130 meals each day. The grant will be used to purchase food, kitchen supplies and equipment necessary to provide food for the hungry. Their grant application was supported by St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg.
The Caring Cupboard, $6,000
The Caring Cupboard serves individuals, families and households with demonstrated food needs and having income no greater than 225% of the poverty guideline. Relying on volunteers and donations, the organization served 540 families in 2019. It also distributed more than 17,000 meals during the summer, and more than 300 turkeys. Funds will be used to purchase food items to distribute to those in need in the Palmyra and Annville-Cleona area. The program’s grant application was supported by Holy Spirit Parish in Palmyra.
The Lord’s Lunch, $12,000
This program initially started as a Girl Scout Award project to provide a meal to the lonely, homeless, unemployed, working poor, mentally and physically challenged, senior citizens and children. Since its inception, it has added distributions of food twice a month and a summer feeding program for school-aged children. In 2019, the program added distribution of fresh foods and dry goods two days a week. The grant will be used to purchase food for the ministry’s four programs: Saturday Lunches, Good Food Boxes, Kids Feeding Kids summer program, and weekly food distribution efforts. St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom supported the program’s grant application.
The Salvation Army-My Brother’s Table, $8,000
My Brother’s Table was established in 1980 as a service to those in the community who needed a nutritious meal and were unable to provide one for themselves. The organization provides nutritious meals to displaced, homeless, and low-income children and adults in the greater Carlisle area. The program serves breakfast five days a week and dinner daily to anyone in need. Clients are offered take-home items, including bread, baked goods, snacks, baby food, cereal, etc. The grant will help purchase food items, cleaning supplies, to-go containers and disposable silverware. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported the ministry’s grant application.
Transitional Housing & Care Center (Formally Gatehouse), $6,000
The Transitional Housing and Care Center provides shelter and services as a gateway to independence for homeless families and individuals. This organization is unique in the fact that it is able to keep families together while facing a housing crisis. It serves families in Montour, Columbia, Union, Synder and Northumberland Counties. The grant will enable Gate House to continue its daily operations of providing emergency shelter and transitional housing to homeless residents. Residents receive safe shelter, life skills workshops, and career counseling. The organization facilitates training and employment opportunities, permanent housing options, physical and mental health services, drug and/or alcohol treatment services nutrition and parenting education. Its grant application was supported by St. Joseph Parish in Danville.
Women’s Care Center of York, $1,000
This organization was started by Msgr. Brenner and others serving York city as a pro-life organization and became part of the Women’s Care Center network in 2017. The organization provides free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, confidential counseling and continuing care for families. Its mission is to provide alternatives to abortion that respect life and encourage healthy development of the family. The grant will be used to support the food and clothing needs of clients. The center’s grant application was supported by Holy Infant Parish in Manchester.
(Photos by Chris Heisey and Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness