The joy of giving was alive and very well in Chester County as members of St. Elizabeth Parish in Upper Uwchlan gathered on Saturday, April 20 for their third annual Stewardship Day of Service.
Started in April 2011, the day is all about giving back to local communities and helping charitable organizations throughout Chester County with the goal of showing God’s love through example.
The day began with Mass, and fittingly, the reading of the day (from the Acts of the Apostles) spoke of Peter raising a woman named Tabitha from the dead, describing her as one who “never tired of doing good and giving in charity.”
Msgr. Thomas M. Mullin, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish, praised the efforts of his parishioners in his homily. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, at the end of our lives, the same could be said of us as was said of Tabitha – that we never tired of doing good or giving in charity?” he said.
He went on to emphasize that the annual day of service is about “living out in practice what we celebrate at the altar.”
After the celebration of Mass, more than 300 volunteers set out to the various sites of their service projects.
Each site had a team of approximately 10 to 15 people ranging in age from young to young at heart. Some teams included entire families seeking to make a difference. Sites were matched with teams based on the ages and capabilities of the volunteers.
Ultimately, a desired outcome is for the participants to form a bond with the organization they help, and possibly continue to volunteer their time on their own. “Of the 300-plus parishioners helping this year, about half have taken part before, and the other half are new,” said Genevieve Miceli, the parish service director and coordinator of the project.
One organization that received a team of St. Elizabeth helpers for the day was the Coatesville branch of Birthright. Locally based in West Chester, Birthright was founded in Toronto, Canada in 1968, and provides non-judgmental assistance to pregnant women in finding insurance, shelter, resources and education, and remains a source of help through the first two years of the child’s life.
The Coatesville branch opened in 2009 and has since served over 700 young expectant mothers.
“St. Elizabeth has been so supportive of us, as has their Knights of Columbus and their Angel Tree Program at Christmas,” said co-director Lisa Bodary. Birthright is 100 percent volunteer run and the extra hands were most appreciated.
“Due to the poor economy,” added co-director Sadie Kerr, “we find many middle class women who at one time volunteered here, are now in need of our services.”
Among the group who worked at Birthright for the day was 9-year-old Nicole Cruz, who said, “I’m just so happy to be here to help them!”
Another local volunteer-based organization that reaped the benefits of St. Elizabeth members was the Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown. Parishioner Mary Gillin not only volunteered to lead the team helping the Lord’s Pantry – she works there on a regular basis.
“The Lord’s Pantry is 50 years old, and we depend on donations to the organization in order to provide our services,” she said.
The Lord’s Pantry invites families in need of assistance to shop for food in weekly increments, including pet food if needed. It presently serves more than 800 registered families and has more than 100 dedicated monthly volunteers.
Food donations come from individuals, families, and stores including Acme, Wegman’s, Giant and Shoprite. “We also receive fresh produce from Waterloo Gardens,” said Gillan.
Other local organizations that were served for the day included Camilla Hall (home for retired Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary), Home of the Sparrow, Safe Harbor, Bridge of Hope, the Chester County Food Bank and Mission Relief.
“A well-developed parish stewardship program provides regular opportunities for parishioners to share their God-given talents with others, both inside and outside their own parish community,” said Msgr. Mullin.
George Gregory is a parishioner of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Coatesville.