NYC Parish Volunteer Group Cares for Children

HNP Communications Around the Province

NEW YORK — As back-to-school time approaches, St. Francis of Assisi Parish on West 31st Street is once again collecting money to buy supplies for students who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

The parish’s Cares program is collecting donations to supply children with basic school supplies, according to Maureen Hess, director of St. Francis Cares.

Last year, she said, the program supported 1,345 children, sending them back to school with pencils, notebooks, backpacks and more. Since storage space is in short supply, Hess asks that donations this year be monetary. Her volunteers will then buy the supplies in bulk and distribute them through New York agencies that support children, including the Kathie Lee Gifford Association and the New York Foundling Home.

This is the 10th year that Cares has been caring about children’s school needs. Hess was called to the parish 10 years ago as director of volunteers, and wasted no time developing programs that supported the needs of single parents, children, seniors and the homeless.

Today, she is happy to say that she works with a cadre of about 25 volunteers.

The Back-to-School Program is not the only program Cares runs. It is busy throughout the year, too, with seasonal projects that mark holidays and provide warm hats and blankets in the winter to clients on the parish’s breadline.

Projects Throughout the Year
Hess estimates that Cares has touched the lives of thousands of New York City residents. The projects include:
• Seasonal Women’s Projects — A gifting service for solo-parent women to show them how special they are. Token gifts are given to mark Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving.
• Precious Baby Program — Working in tandem with agencies throughout the five boroughs, Cares has welcomed approximately 1,700 newborns with baby shower gifts.
• The St. Francis Grandparents Knitting and Crocheting and Women in Special Circumstances — These two parish groups provide the skilled hands to craft beautiful baby blankets, sweater sets and baby accessories for infants; as well as scarves, afghans and lap robes for homeless clients.
• Seasonal Children’s Projects — The parish supplies seasonal gifts like Easter and Halloween candy.
• Medical Mission of Mercy Children — Partnering with the St. Francis Immigration Center, children with severe medical conditions are brought to the United States for surgery. These children are welcomed with a gift.
• Secret Angel — Monthly greetings and Christmas gifts go to nursing home shut-ins.
• Loving Pets — Each pet receives a certificate of enrollment, birthday and other appropriate greetings. Periodically Pet-of-the Month greetings are sent to the parish’s nursing home residents.
• Good Neighbors — Cares encourages local businesses to participate
in its projects. It also reaches out to local churches and agencies to help with fundraising projects.
• Children Helping Those In Need — Cares promotes children’s involvement in the giving process by visiting schools to discuss various programs that children can be involved in.

Donations Needed for the Homeless
And if all these projects are enough, Cares is seeking donations to help replenish supplies for the homeless. It is currently seeking travel-size toothbrushes and toothpaste, along with hand-crocheted or knitted scarves for Christmas gifts for the parish’s breadline clients. Scarves need to be 7-inches wide by 60-inches long in dark colors. Yarn is also needed.

“The generosity and kind hearts of our dedicated parishioners have made this all possible,” said Hess.

How to Make Donations
To make a monetary donation to any of these projects, send a check to St. Francis of Assisi Parish House 135 W. 31st St. New York NY 10001, Attention: Maureen Hess