They weren’t kidding when they named Family Volunteer Day at St. Katherine of Siena Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where participants ranged from pre-school through octogenarians.
A highlight of the day on Saturday, Nov. 18 was the assembling of 500 or so turkey dinners to be donated to Aid for Friends and distributed to mostly frail elderly shut-ins this Thanksgiving season. There probably would have been more meals, but the generous portions reflected the appetites of the many teen assemblers who didn’t realize the elderly eat much more sparingly.
“I like the idea that it’s families,” said Msgr. Paul Kennedy, the pastor of St. Katherine’s. “Doing it as family teaches the kids the value of charity, and everyone working together forms friendships in the parish.”
The turkeys were all donated and pre-cooked by other volunteers, according to Parish Services Director Colleen Boyle Sharp. To help make the day possible, St. Katherine’s also receives assistance through Generation On, the Points of Light Foundation and Disney, Boyle Sharp explained.
Even as the dinner trays were being assembled, members of the Catholic Daughters of America assisted by kids were assembling rosaries to be given to veterans. You might say it was food for the body and food for the soul.
Another group was putting together fringed comfort blankets for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
One striking sight at the event was how many parents were there with their kids.
Michael Crumbock brought his children, Emma and Cameron. “Part of why I’m here is to teach my kids the value of volunteering and the spirit of charity we have in the church,” he said. “Emma is making confirmation this year and this is part of her service.”
Meghan Foley, who brought her young daughter Margaret along, said they just returned to the United States after three years in France for employment reasons. “They don’t do Thanksgiving there and I’m looking forward to celebrating it in America,” she said. “I’m grateful for my family, this wonderful community and the blessings God has given us.”
Chrissy Nicholls, a first grade teacher at St. Katherine of Siena, practices what she preaches to her class. She brought along her three little ones. Ella, who is almost 7, attends Our Lady of Confidence Day School and is the poster child for this year’s Catholic Charities Appeal. She was keeping a watchful eye on her younger sisters Kennedy and Clare.
“This is important for the children to see their parents working hard for others and hopefully they will grow up to do the same thing,” Chrissy Nichols said.
Frank Coyne, who coordinates Aid for Friends in the parish, was not only collecting the filled trays, he passed out empty trays so that parishioners can share some of the bounty they cook at home for Thanksgiving. Helping organizations like Aid for Friends, he said, “is the Christian thing to do. Someday we may need their services ourselves.”
Some of the leftover canned goods will be used locally to feed needy families identified by the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference. “We have about 20 people who go out in pairs to visit people,” said Dan Coonan, conference president. “We also have turkey baskets that we will be distributing that were donated by Academy Injury and Health (Center).”
Later in the afternoon another group of parishioners capped off their day of service at Immaculate Mary Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, helping the elderly residents with Christmas arts and crafts.
Family Volunteer Day isn’t limited to helping fellow parishioners at St. Katherine of Siena Parish. And it isn’t just one day a year — it is every day.