By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
With elf stockings on their heads, a bounce in their steps and joy in their hearts, hundreds of volunteers helped distribute countless gifts during the Catholic Charities Christmas Distribution event at Santa Clara Regional Community Center on Dec. 13.
The event was moved this year to the Santa Clara Regional Community Center to allow for a larger collection and distribution center and traffic flow. Throughout the morning hundreds of vehicles formed a line more than a half-mile long at the center’s entrance on West Davis.
As they approached the center, the clients identified themselves according to their pre-registered request and corresponding number. As they got closer to the front of the line, volunteers were ready with their bag full of gifts, which were placed in their vehicle by volunteers, who also wished them a “Merry Christmas” or “Feliz Navidad.”
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell was among those who helped place the gifts in numerous vehicles. He spoke to the occupants in English and Spanish, asked them how they were doing and posed for photos with several of them before wishing them a “Merry Christmas.”
“Christmas is a time of great joy and great happiness, precisely because it is the time that our savior was born on Christmas Day and we celebrate that with the children and the great tradition of St. Nicholas bringing gifts to the families and to the children,” Bishop Farrell said.
He thanked the numerous volunteers, countless donors at parishes, Catholic schools and private donors who helped fulfill the wish list for numerous Catholic Charities clients.
“We have hundreds of volunteers here who are bringing a little joy and peace to the lives of so many families who these days cannot afford simple little things, such as a gift at Christmas time,” Bishop Farrell said. “We hope that this will bring some peace and joy to our world and we hope that this happiness, serenity and peace would transmit itself from the younger generation to us adults who need it too.”
In all, 2,700 gifts were distributed to 721 families.
Bishop Farrell also made the first distribution from the Diocese’s $125 million Capital Campaign to Catholic Charities. The check was in the amount of $2.13 million.
Arne Nelson, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Dallas Inc., said that the check would help offset expenses related to the improvements and refurbishing of the Santa Clara Regional Community Center, including gymnasium, offices, classrooms, pool and sports fields.
“We just did about 20 years’ worth of deferred maintenance,” he said. “We put a new HVAC in, new roof, new ceilings, repainted everything, re-caulked all the windows and doors, built a nice pool house, completely redid the education building, put in some new bathrooms, so it was getting the place ready for use.”
Among the volunteers were nearly two dozen young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, numerous Jesuit College Preparatory School students and the Bishop Lynch Girls Varsity and JV Basketball Teams.
The basketball team members were strategically located on the gym floor and bleachers and at their feet were hundreds of black trash bags containing the gifts. As a client’s number was called, a team member or two scooped up the corresponding bag and brought it to the front of the gym and handed it to another volunteer who took it outside to the waiting vehicle.
Head Coach Andy Zihlman said it is important for the girls to volunteer at activities such as the Christmas Distribution because it provides them with a greater sense of community.
Senior Captain Lindsey Maso agreed.
“I think it’s important that we show that we care about our community, that we love everyone around us and that we want to help people and that we’re not just a basketball team,” she said.
Bishop Farrell also noted that Christmas time should be the time to set aside differences across the spectrum.
“We speak about peace in the world, but we should never forget that that world is very small and that that peace begins in the heart of every human being. If we do not care for each other and when we are not at peace with each other then we cannot expect nations, societies, communities to be at peace and I hope this Christmas that’s what we will pray for, a little more understanding, and more peace among our communities in the United States.”
Nelson said that anyone considering a gift to Catholic Charities throughout the year should know that their gift is “much needed and greatly appreciated.”
“The people who have helped us over the years have been very generous as we try to build our programs to better serve people who have limited opportunity and break them out of poverty and out of fear of hunger,” he said. “A gift to Catholic Charities would go a long way in helping us do that.”