The Covid-19 virus has required us all to “pivot” from some of our usual activities to a safer level of behavior. In the same way, some of our parish and outreach activities have changed. This year, for the first time in many years, our parishes are not involved in the “Church of the Week” (COTW) program – in fact, there IS no COTW program this year to provide temporary shelter in our church gyms or dining halls for persons experiencing homelessness. However, the issue of homelessness has not gone away. New initiatives have developed to assist those in most need in our community, and our Social Justice committee has chosen to reach out in a different way this year to offer support and hope to those persons experiencing homelessness.
The TAO Social Justice Committee is organizing a small gift distribution for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness in the St. Cloud community. We will offer a gift bag to those persons who receive daily meals at Lake George, or who seek safety in a warming center, or who experience food insecurity due to low income. Our goal is to offer them a holiday greeting, to convey our concern for them, and to assure them of God’s love. – all while adhering to Covid-19 safety guidelines. We invite and strongly encourage parishioners to participate by preparing one or more gift bags and joining us in sharing them at one of three sites on Sunday, Dec. 20. Each site has a coordinator who will ensure that enough bags are prepared for that location: we are planning a distribution to 120 persons. The sites are:
Lake George parking lot between the veterans’ memorial and the public restrooms from 2-3 p.m., coordinated by Mari Walker, phone or text 253-6162;
The new warming center at 630 SE Lincoln Avenue in east St. Cloud from 3:30 – 4 p.m., coordinated by Kathy Peterson at 253-7548;
Behind the Somali café at 119 St. Germain St. from 5 – 5:30 p.m., coordinated by Janet Reigstad at 249-1293, or e-mail email@example.com
We suggest the following items for each gift bag: three clementines (“cuties” – easy to peel and to eat), ½ dozen homemade cookies, hand and foot warmers, and a Christmas card with a handwritten message. The bag can be a simple brown lunch bag, decorated with stickers or a Christmas symbol; and a card can be homemade or “store-bought” with a hand-written message to personalize it. Families are encouraged to have children help prepare one or more gift bags by making Christmas cards and decorating bags; and to join in the distribution process (all per Covid 19 guidelines). We hope that many parishioners accept this invitation to make a connection with someone in our community who is experiencing hardship in their life.
In addition, the Christian Women from St. Paul’s are contributing socks for distribution with the gift bags; and new bath towels will be offered to guests in the warming center and the single room occupancy residence who take showers at the nearby Qwik Trip.
If you are able to contribute one or more assembled bags, please contact one of the coordinators to let them know how many bags you are assembling, and whether you will help with distribution. Bags will be collected on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19 and 20, in a specially marked box at each parish; deadline is noon on Sunday, Dec. 20 for distribution that afternoon. Call a site coordinator if you have any questions. Thank you for your help as we reach out to our neighbors this Christmas season.