Holidays at St. Francis Community Services

At St. Francis Community Services’ Southside Center location, Site Director and Therapist Meredith Rataj guides a mom through a small sea of Christmas packages to her family’s gifts. While staff try to determine if the many packages will fit in her car, the mother has other reflections. Looking at the presents, household items, and a bunk bed for her children, she remarks to Meredith, “Dios es grande,” or, “God is great.” In December across our four locations, the effort of staff, volunteers, and donors ensure clients know how great God is.

Adopt-a-Family Program at St. Francis Community Services Southside Center

The Southside Center location, serving greater St. Louis’ immigrants, ran its yearly Adopt-a-Family program for over 180 Latino families in 2018, in addition to providing Vietnamese elders at the center with food assistance over the holidays. More than 200 families, churches, schools, and corporate offices sponsored families to ensure they would have presents, household items and other urgently needed items. Volunteers and Southside Center staff then managed the schedule of all donors dropping off these gifts, and clients picking them up; while it’s unclear how many packages Southside staff move in December, it’s a lot! Volunteers and staff from SFCS’ Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry (CLAM) and Administrative locations spent days supporting Southside staff by moving boxes of gifts where they need to go. The Adopt-a-Family Program recipients are some of the most economically vulnerable clients that SFCS Southside serves, and it is exciting to ensure that the stress and costs of the holidays are lessened for these families.

100 Neediest Families at St. Francis Community Services Pathways to Progress

In North St. Louis at SFCS’ Pathways to Progress location, member advisors arranged for their members to take part in the Post-Dispatch’s 100 Neediest Families project, which provides gifts and direct aid to families in need. Member families received more in direct aid this year, resulting, as one member advisor put it, “in quite a few tears of joy!” Member advisors shared that many clients have made significant life steps in 2018, such as changing jobs, building credit, or preparing to buy a home, and so this direct aid is an additional joyful moment throughout lots of hard work this year.

Building Relationships, Inspiring Change

In addition to providing clients much-needed assistance throughout the holidays, a special facet of the holiday season are the relationships St. Francis Community Services staff build with donors. While the generosity of so many is inspiring, SFCS staff were particularly impressed by a ten-year old girl who decided to give up her own Christmas presents to adopt a family at Southside. Her dad said, “I’ve tried to teach and show my daughter that she is blessed beyond measure. So when I proposed this idea of giving up her Christmas to bless another family she jumped at the chance. I’m proud of my daughter for making such an unselfish decision.” All of us at SFCS are grateful for the donors, staff, and volunteers that make the holidays brighter for SFCS clients – thank you!

(Photo above: St. Francis Community Services Site Director and Therapist Meredith Rataj and volunteer Mark Mansfield get ready to distribute 2018 Adopt-A-Family gifts.)