Fuel and Hunger Fund in Southwest Virginia aids many
The Fuel and Hunger Fund, administered by the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace, supports Catholic outreach and ministry programs serving children, families in need and the elderly in communities across the Diocese. Funds provide meals and groceries and help people with heating, rent or shelter.
Last year, Fuel and Hunger funds helped Catholic parishes and organizations serve 63,066 families and 234,924 individuals in our Diocese who were in need of assistance. Thanks to this year’s Diocesan Appeal, the Office of Justice and Peace was able to provide 67 grants totaling $150,000.
This year, nearly 30 percent of Fuel and Hunger Funds awarded to parishes went to Catholic parishes in the Southwest region of the Diocese where there is incredible need and few resources in the community available to meet it.
With a sparse population compared to other areas of the Diocese, in 2010 nearly 19 percent of all people and 22 percent of the 93,268 children in the region lived in poverty.
In 2010, poverty was defined as when a family of four had less than $22,314 a year, an individual under 65 earned less than $11,334 a year and an individual over 65 earned less than $10,458 a year.
In this rural area, there are 22 Catholic churches and 6,760 Catholic parishioners. This is just below 1.5 percent of the region’s total population.
Teresa Savage facilitates the financial assistance ministry for Holy Family Catholic Church in Pearisburg in Giles County, a few miles from the West Virginia border.
“We are a very small parish of less than 50 families,” she said. “We’ve been in existence for a little over 30 years and raise our money through a salad luncheon, some grants and tap into everything we can to get monies to help us serve the community.
“Holy Family had five ladies who started this ministry 30 years ago and it’s just so important for us to keep it going in their memory, to keep it going to serve people in need,” Ms. Savage continued. “There is just so much need out there and it manifests in ways we haven’t seen before.”
Similar to application for a grant, a parish or Catholic organization in the Diocese of Richmond must apply to receive funds. Applicants must be involved and active in direct service such as providing fuel, food, housing or shelter assistance to people in need.
Last year, because of assistance provided by the Fuel and Hunger Fund, Teresa and the Justice and Peace Committee at Holy Family served over 300 families and almost 850 individuals with groceries, utility bills, rent, mortgage payments and more.
“It’s gratifying to know that in such a small town and in such a small church we help so many people in the community,” Ms. Savage said. “Our partners in this ministry tell us ‘Of all the churches, your church is always there for us.’
“We’re the first church that they call because they know we’re there to help. So every dollar makes a difference. And if you didn’t support our ministry, we wouldn’t be able to help.
“Because of the economy, churches are finding that donations and collections are down so your support is more important than ever,” said Ms. Savage.
“We’re told by everyone from St. Paul to Pope Benedict XVI that Christian communities are measured by how they show their concern for the poor. The Office of Justice and Peace puts a priority on helping all of our parishes to develop and sustain ministries of service to their communities, and insofar as we can identify and allocate extra resources where the need is demonstrably great, we’re happy to do it.
Our Diocese is truly blessed by parishioners, parish staff and pastors who put our faith in Jesus into loving action for the world.
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