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Catholic Parish Outreach Celebrates 35 Years of Service

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Approximately 200 people attended the 35th anniversary celebration of Catholic Parish Outreach Food Pantry, Friday, February 10, 2012. The event took place at St. Raphael Catholic Church Hall in Raleigh. Among those in attendance were volunteers at the food pantry, two of whom have donated their time since the agency began operations.

Catholic Parish Outreach (CPO), operated by the Raleigh regional office of Catholic Charities, is the largest food pantry in the eastern half of North Carolina and one of five food pantries run by Catholic Charities in the eastern half of the state. The pantry was established in 1977 by the five Catholic churches in Raleigh at that time. It began in a small storefront, which had been a barber shop on Tarboro St. near St. Augustine College. It has relocated four times in 35 years in order to respond to the growth in the numbers of people needing food assistance to meet their family’s basic nutritional needs. Today, it is housed in a 16,000 square foot building on North Raleigh Boulevard and is presently supported by the 14 Catholic parishes and nine Catholic schools in Wake County along with support from the federal government, United Way of the Greater Triangle and countless generous donors.

In his remarks, Catholic Charities Raleigh Regional Director Rick Miller-Haraway explained how through the years, CPO has managed, through donations of time and money, to address the needs of many people in need of food and clothing. He noted that in the last three months the pantry has distributed a week’s worth of groceries to an average of 10,556 people, an increase of 25 percent over the previous year and a 133 percent increase over the average of 4,542 people per month in 2007. In 2011, the pantry distributed 2.5 million pounds of food valued at $4.15 million, providing enough food for 2.2 million meals. Eighty-five percent of the food is donated.

Referring to the “Build it and they will come,” line from the film Field of Dreams, Miller-Haraway said as it pertains to Catholic Parish Outreach, the statement is “Trust in the Holy Spirit, build it, and they will come.”

The keynote talk was presented by Ms. Earline Middleton, Vice President of Agency Services for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. She spoke of the importance of being “vigilant,” as it pertains to addressing the needs of the poor and the challenges facing a vital organization such as Catholic Parish Outreach.

In expressing gratitude for the work of CPO and its many volunteers, Ms. Middleton noted that the Food Bank selected CPO as its “Partner of the Year” for 2011. “Continue to work with the compassion of Christ,” she said, “as he was able to feed many with very little.”

Raleigh City Councilman Eugene Weeks presented the Presidential Award for Volunteer Service to the agency. The recognition is well-deserved. Last year 1,299 volunteers donated 36,901 hours of service in assistance to the one and a half staff persons who operate the food pantry. “Thank you for all you are doing,” Councilman Weeks said. “The number of volunteer hours committed to helping the poor is impressive.”

The Presidential Award was accepted by Mrs. Terry Foley, who read a letter from a woman who extended her gratitude for the assistance she received from CPO.

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge told the gathering that the evening’s celebration was in recognition of “a beautiful and generous heart you share.” He added, “God says to you, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’”

Bishop Burbidge spoke of a culture of joy that is present at Catholic Parish Outreach. “The joy is there because of your presence,” the Bishop said, adding, “It is created by the love you have for one another.”

Watch Bishop Burbidge’s remarks

Watch Terry Foley share a letter of gratitude

Watch Marge Wood’s talk on the history of CPO

View photo gallery

Above: Marge Moeller (top) and Rita Such (center) have volunteered at CPO since the food pantry opened 35 years ago. Immediately above: Terry Foley, CPO Director (center) her assistant Kelly Rappl and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge hold the Presidential Award for Volunteer Service presented to CPO.