By: Art Bennett
President and CEO, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington
The Diocese of Arlington encompasses some of the most influential and prosperous counties in the country. Financially, the Lord has blessed us abundantly and it can be easy to think hunger isn’t such a problem.
But drive just an hour west on I-66 from St. Thomas More Cathedral and people are standing in line at ‘Loaves and Fishes,’ the newest Catholic Charities food pantry in Front Royal, Virginia.
Overcome with gratitude, not only for the food they receive, but also for the dignity with which they are treated, several clients have embraced pantry manager Shelly Cook with tears in their eyes.
That reality is that people are hungry in our diocese. In the outermost and rural parts of the diocese especially, the hunger and need is extreme. Closer to our nation’s capital, 10 percent of our neighbors do not have the food they need. Faced with the prospect of feeding a family during the summer without the help of free or reduced school lunches, many parents are desperate.
That is where Catholic Charities comes in. Our goal at Catholic Charities is to bring the love of Christ to everyone, particularly the most disadvantaged and poor. We can only do this with your help.
We are finding new ways of reaching the rural poor, but unfortunately we are running out of food. We have to get creative and work together as a community to get food back on the tables of our brothers and sisters right here in our own diocese.
That is where you come in. No matter where you live or how old you are, you can make a significant contribution by donating funds or food, or organizing a food drive in your community
Here are just a few of our programs your support can help in the fight against hunger:
- Each month, Christ House provides 1,800 free meals to the clients who come for our nightly dinner program. Operating 365 days a year (even during Snowmaggedon!) with the help of parishes and groups from all over the diocese, our staff and volunteers daily feed and welcome the poor.
- Christ House on Wheels (affectionately nicknamed “CHOW”), is a program made up of a regular army of volunteers who collect food from food drives and other sources and deliver it to where it’s needed most: the rural parts of the diocese.
- Supplemented by the fresh produce from their brand-new St. Martin’s Garden, the many seniors at the St. Martin de Porres Senior Center, Alexandria, receive 940 lunches and 370 breakfasts per month. At the senior center, game prizes often include fresh bread and other food items.
- At our Western Regional Office in Leesburg 120 lunches per month are delivered to homeless individuals accessing a local day center.
- Each month, 580 families are provided with nonperishable goods from our three food pantries in Front Royal, Leesburg and Alexandria.
- And much more …
Unfortunately, all of these programs are dangerously under-stocked with food and supplies. I invite you to prayerfully consider how you can help: whether in the form of money or food donations or organizing a food drive in your parish or community. Visit Catholic Charities at www.ccda.net or call 703-841-3830 for information on how you can help the poor in our diocese.