The world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization is helping the Archdiocese of Philadelphia feed area families struggling to put food on the table due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Knights of Columbus recently directed $50,000 to archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS) to bolster supplies at five pantries supported by NDS’s Community Food Program (a beneficiary of the Catholic Charities Appeal).
Some of the region’s most impoverished neighborhoods are served by the food cupboards, which include the St. Katharine Drexel Outreach Center in Chester, the B.V.M. Parish food cupboard in Darby, and three city sites: the Community Center at Visitation in Kensington, St. Joan of Arc Mission Church in Harrowgate and Our Lady of Hope in North Philadelphia.
Of the total funds, $10,000 will assist the archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees (OPCMR), which is responding to the immediate food needs of migrants and other Catholics of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The donation is part of the Knights’ “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative, which seeks to provide urgently needed aid to food banks, blood centers and other essential resources depleted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson has challenged the Knights — established in 1882 and now numbering close to 2 million worldwide — to view the pandemic as an opportunity to “deepen (their) commitment” to their organization’s defining principles of “charity, unity and fraternity.”
According to Knights spokesman Joseph Cullen, the effort has raised $1.5 million in addition to an initial $1 million allocation from the order.
Cullen noted that the organization’s members are accustomed to tackling hunger in their communities.
“When a pastor wants to do a food collection, the first guys he frequently turns to are the Knights,” he said. “They give him the muscle to find, collect and hand out the food.”
NDS executive director Lizanne Hagedorn agreed that the Knights “have always put their faith into action,” and that the funding comes at a critical time.
With the nation’s unemployment rate approaching 15%, the highest since the Great Depression, food insecurity has become a major concern.
“Many of our food pantries across the region are experiencing a 100% increase in clients,” said Hagedorn, noting that many now seeking aid are those “who typically do not face hunger.”
Others are all too familiar with food insecurity, she said, but fear reaching out for help because of their immigration status.
Hagedorn said she is working closely with OPCMR director Sister Gertrude Borres, a member of the Religious of the Assumption, to help ethnic communities that are “really hurting” in both the city and its suburbs.
“A lot of them were working in service industries, and those jobs have now gone away,” she said.
The Knights of Columbus monies will also enable Sister Gertrude and her volunteers to purchase “foods that are more germane” to the communities they serve, Hagedorn added.
Food assistance agencies are increasingly looking to provide culturally appropriate items to ethnic clients, for both practical reasons and “to affirm human worth and dignity,” she said.
Above all, Hagedorn said, she and Sister Gertrude “truly believe (such efforts show) the face of the church” to those whom they serve.
“We have to be there for them,” she said.
For a list of food cupboards and emergency feeding sites operated by Nutritional Development Services (NDS), visit the agency’s COVID-19 resource page.
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