A collaborative effort between an Oak Cliff parish and two nonprofits on Sept. 8 aimed to aid Dallas-area veterans, military personnel and their families.
Coordinated by Soldiers’ Angels in cooperation with Holy Cross Catholic Church and the North Texas Food Bank, the food distribution at the parish was open to families of veterans and active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists. It marked the first military and food distribution event the nonprofit has offered in the Dallas area.
One hundred families received assistance at the event, which was sponsored by Lockheed Martin and coincided with National Hunger Action Month. Organizers said the distribution event, to be held at Holy Cross every second Friday of the month, will eventually provide more than 200 pre-registered military-connected families, on average, 75 lbs. of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and non-perishables.
Social outreach has long been ingrained in the community that makes up Holy Cross. When Father Elmer Herrera-Guzman was appointed as the Oak Cliff parish’s pastor this past July, he knew that he wanted to build upon that tradition of service.
“This parish has always had very strong outreach programs that aimed to help those in need in our communities,” said Father Herrera-Guzman, adding that like many such programs, Holy Cross’s efforts had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “With the pandemic, we faced many challenges. My prayer was that we could get those programs back as soon as we could while at the same time building upon them to help even more people.”
So, when Soldiers’ Angels reached out to him about collaborating on the food distribution event, Father Herrera-Guzman jumped at the opportunity.
“We have a lot of veterans at Holy Cross, and I was actually looking for a way to acknowledge them,” the priest said, noting that he had plans to dedicate a wall in the parish to recognize veterans. “And that’s when I received the email. They were desperately seeking a place to hold the event. I was looking for a way to honor our veterans. It was Godsend for both of us.”
Father Herrera-Guzman joined organizers on Sept. 8 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the joint-effort. He then joined parishioners and Lockheed Martin volunteers in handing out boxes and bags of food items to the line of vehicles snaking around the sanctuary’s parking lot.
“To see all this is just amazing,” Father Herrera-Guzman said. “At the end of the day, this is just a location. It is the spirit of Christ that moves us toward this generosity.”
Father Herrera-Guzman tapped 12-year parishioner and U.S. Air Force veteran Tommy Benjamin to serve as the parish’s coordinator for the monthly Soldiers’ Angels distribution events.
“This church has always been a parish that serves the community,” Benjamin said. “I’m happy to see that we can now do something for the veterans.”
Likewise, the parish priest is pleased for another opportunity to continue building back the parish’s commitment to community service post-COVID-19.
“I see how it has rekindled the fire again that our parish had pre-COVID,” he added. “We are re-energized, and we can tap back into that spirit and help our communities.”