Every thirty seconds. That’s how often a Catholic Parish Outreach client walked out the door of CPO with food and other goods during operating hours on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. With more than 50 volunteers helping nearly 300 families, it was a busy day for CPO, a Catholic Charities organization in Raleigh that serves families from Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties.
The organization is seeing record numbers of those in need, explained director Terry Foley. This year CPO has served about 9,700 people each month. Two years ago, approximately 8,000 people were served each month. Last month CPO served 11,000 families, and Ms. Foley expects 12,000 to be served this month. “It will be another record month for us,” she explained. “I feel like we’re all so blessed to be able to offer this ministry to the clients we serve … they’re here with situational poverty. It’s because of the bad economy.”
As they do six days a week, CPO volunteers worked quickly to serve those in need. Wearing jeans, sneakers and t-shirts, volunteers filled bags with food, checked lists for special requests, stocked shelves, pushed pallet jacks weighed down with boxes and delivered food and other necessities to clients’ cars.
The Most Reverend Bishop Michael F. Burbidge assisted CPO clients as well. He also led volunteers in prayer at the start of the day, asking for God’s divine assistance so those gathered could be instruments of His compassion, healing love and abiding presence. The Bishop expressed his gratitude to volunteers and told them it was a privilege to be with them.
“To see the overflow of goodness and generosity, it really brings home the true spirit of Thanksgiving,” said Bishop Burbidge during an on-location taping of the television program Catholic Perspective. “The volunteers who are here are just incredible, and so the people who come here needing assistance are responded to in a timely way and with such respect and joy … it’s beautiful to see.”
St. Luke parishioner Joe Jacobs volunteers once a week in the CPO warehouse. For the last three years, he has volunteered alongside childhood friend Joe Huray, whom he grew up with in upstate New York. Now retired, Mr. Jacobs is thankful he has time to share. “I worked for IBM … traveled a lot, so I didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot, other than to give money,” he said. “But now … my job is just to keep the place clean, put the boxes up. I enjoy it. It gives me great satisfaction.”
Volunteer Katharina Megger, who belongs to St. Michael Church in Cary, said she gives back because she once received. Born in Croatia to German parents in 1942, her family fled to Salzburg, Austria, during World War II. “Catholic Relief Services came with packages for us because we were in camp. They sent food, flour, sugar, clothing, shoes … the necessities. I remember a pink and white dress,” she said while filling a CPO cart with food for those in need. “We had a lot of hunger … that’s why I’m paying back.”
Beth Dittman works full time at N.C. State University and volunteers at CPO about six times a year. She often schedules extra volunteer time during her Christmas break. As a college and graduate student, she was so busy that there wasn’t much time for volunteering. But now that she’s a part of CPO, she said she enjoys the camaraderie among volunteers and seeing the excitement on children’s faces when they receive a food they particularly like. “Sometimes I’ll run the carts out to families … bless them,” she said with a knowing smile. “When you see the kids excited about bananas … that really makes it completely worth it.”
At CPO, assisting those in need is a worthy cause every day of the year. “Thanksgiving is a food holiday, so people want to be able to feed their family,” said Ms. Foley. “But hunger never takes a holiday … people are in great need. If you just talk to a few of the clients, you’ll know that.”
If you would like to donate to help Catholic Parish Outreach address the growing need in Wake, Franklin and Johnston Counties, visit its website at www.cporaleigh.org. If you would like to make a donation to any of the other regional offices or to Catholic Charities, visit http://www.dioceseofraleigh.org/how/social/contribute.aspx
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Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge leading prayer for volunteers at Catholic Parish Outreach on busiest day of the year.
Above: CPO clients gathering before opening on November 20.
Below: Bishop Burbidge and CPO volunteer loading Thanksgiving groceries in car of clients.