Pro Utilitate Hominum – The Priory of the USA’s Second Annual National Day of Service

Every day, there are countless organizations across the country providing all manner of services to those in need. Many, many Confrères in the U.S. Priory support these organizations through financial contributions, volunteerism, or service on boards of directors. But there is one day each year we are all asked to be proximate to these groups, to see what it takes to provide food for the hungry; homes for the unhoused; or comfort for our veterans, the elderly or lonely. This is the Priory’s National Day of Service. In its second year, more than 200 Members in cities from coast to coast turned out to put the mission of the Order into action.

Members in several Regions provided hands-on support in food pantries. The seven volunteers in the Austin/San Antonio Region boxed a remarkable 24,000 pounds of food for distribution. (This Region gets extra credit for recruiting four prospective Members to help with the effort!) The six volunteers in the Santa Barbara area of the Los Angeles Region also distributed food to 300 families in need, while a Member in Orange County worked at the Second Harvest Food Bank. In Los Angeles, volunteers prepped and cooked a healthy, nutritious lunch for 180 women at the Downtown Women’s Center, Los Angeles’ only organization focused exclusively on serving women and gender-diverse individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Several Confrères helped pack groceries for the Center after the luncheon.

In Hartford, CT, four volunteers cleaned freezers and storerooms at A Place of Grace Food Pantry in preparation for its annual inspections, while a whopping 25 volunteers in the San Francisco Region worked in two different food banks over three shifts. The first shift packed groceries for loading into cars by the second shift. The Region even had at least one volunteer making cards for Veterans at Ft. Miley.

The eight volunteers from the Houston Region called in help from two Scouting BSA troops as they worked at the Malta Food Bank in Richmond and the Kids’ Meals program at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Houston. These Members showed up to volunteer even as the Houston area was recovering from severe storms the night before!

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Members in St. Louis had a slightly different food pantry experience, with nine volunteers serving clients in a traditional grocery store configuration at the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry. They assisted in the bakery, produce, dairy, and meat departments, and encountered several different languages and many smiles. The Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry in Greenwich, CT, benefited from the efforts of 11 volunteers from that Region who processed 6,500 pounds of food received through the U.S. Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Confrères spent the morning stocking shelves and distributing food to those in need.

Fifteen volunteers from the Washington, DC Region packed 1,000 bags of oats for distribution to the food insecure in Arlington County, Virginia. Members in the San Diego Region spent the day at Father Joe’s Villages, a provider of services to the homeless in the area. Four volunteers prepared meals on the serving line in the kitchen and assisted guests with disabilities in the dining room.

The three Confrères in the Mountain States enlisted several family members to help with duties at the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, where they worked in a community garden that provides fresh produce to those most in need in the Bozeman, MT area. There were two different volunteer opportunities in the Gulf Coast Region, where eight volunteers spent the morning cleaning and organizing shelving, food storage areas, storage closets, and the office area of Love All Pantry in Mobile. In an effort to accommodate differing schedules, the Region offered an afternoon activity focused on cleaning and beautifying the grounds and courtyards of the Murray House, an assisted living facility. Before tackling the landscaping duty, the Members dined with the residents.

The North Carolina Region also offered multiple service options across the state with a total of 17 volunteers working at either the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, Nourish Up in Charlotte, The City with Dwellings Foot Clinic in Winston-Salem, and the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity in Glenn Bridge.

North Carolina Region

Habitat for Humanity is an organization approved for service nationwide, and other Regions took advantage of opportunities in their communities. The Richmond Region sent two teams to work in Habitat’s ReStore operations, one in Richmond and another in Williamsburg. They were responsible for arranging, pricing, and repairing goods. Another group of Richmond Confrères quickly pivoted due to inclement weather from building with Habitat to producing decorated cards for distribution to area veterans. Nine volunteers from the Southwest Region worked in the Habitat for Humanity of Dallas ReStore. The group performed a variety of tasks including unboxing, sorting, and pricing ReStore merchandise and moving home appliances.

Assisting organizations that provide services to veterans was a focus for two Regions. In Charleston, 10 volunteers worked at the Fisher House, a facility that provides housing for families of veterans receiving care at the nearby Johnson VA Medical Center. They washed windows, cleaned stairwells, unloaded and stocked donated food, cleaned the kitchen and stocked it with supplies, prepared lunch for the residents, cleaned the outside of the building, and straightened up the carriage house.

The Fisher House in West Palm Beach also benefited, as 11 volunteers from the Palm Beach Region organized the kitchen area, utility room, living room/entertainment area, and common areas of the house. Four volunteers in the New England Region also spent the morning with veterans, serving brunch to 50 residents of the New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston. Four other Members volunteered at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, where they handed out programs and acted as sighted guides for a student concert.

As we consider the troubles in the world and despair at the difficulties in finding solutions to seemingly overwhelming problems, we can at least find opportunities close to home where even small undertakings result in large impacts. The National Day of Service is one way to serve our Lords, the sick and the poor, one way to connect to each other and the community, one way to offer whatever gifts we have to those working in the trenches every day.

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