St. Thomas More seeks help to provide a Merry Christmas to all
By Kathy Feist
“We started off giving away toys and clothes for 300 children. Now we’re trying to do 1000, and it’s just…We need help!” says an overwhelmed David Butel.
Butel is pastoral associate at St. Thomas More Parish, whose church is located at 118th and Holmes Rd. He and parish member Rita Tiehen, who oversees the church’s annual Christmas Donation Drive and Sister Loretto Marie Colwell, who runs the Seton Center, met with the Martin City Telegraph to ask for help from the community to fulfill children’s Christmas wishes.
From now until December 3, St. Thomas More will be collecting toys, clothes and food for eligible families who will seek services from the Seton Center located near 23rd and Prospect. Specifically, they are looking for help with their Adopt a Family program.
In this program, the donor buys a child a toy valued no more than $25. The child is also given a book, and stocking stuffers, all in all totaling around $50. The donor chooses the number of children they want to purchase gifts for and a list filled out by the family is sent to them along with a red bag. Christmas gifts must be delivered to the church by December 3.
St. Thomas More will also have a Christmas tree filled with toy requests, these coming from the children at St. Louis Parish located at 59th and Swope Parkway. One need only stop by St. Thomas More’s church entrance to pick a wish from the tree (starting November 11). These gifts are due December 3 as well.
St. Thomas More has 700 children from Seton Center and 300 children from St. Louis Parish whom they hope to help during this Christmas season.
The Seton Center provides assistance to those living in Kansas City’s lowest income ZIP codes. Around 97 percent are living below the poverty level. Throughout the year, the center provides food, clothing, hygiene products, and free dentistry to those who come through their doors.
During the holiday season, a recipient can choose items from Seton’s Christmas Gift Room in addition to four free items from the Thrift Shop, They are handed a bag of presorted hygiene products, four weeks worth of food from the Food Pantry, and a voucher from Price Chopper for a holiday meal.
“When families come there they are in survival mode,” says Sister Loretto, who points out that most arrive by bus. “They don’t realize how to get home with all that stuff.” She says men who volunteer at the center will often drive them home in their cars.
There are many centers throughout the metropolitan area that give away meals or gifts during the holiday season. The Mid-America Regional Council keeps track of each individual whose data is entered in their system so that recipients cannot take advantage of different charitable organizations’ generosity. “There is no double dipping,” says Sister Loretto.
Seton Center also provides one-time rent and utility assistance to their neighboring families in need of help. St. Thomas More contributes to this program by helping 20 different families per month.
Seton relies heavily on St. Thomas More parish for donated items, monetary assistance and volunteers. “St. Thomas More is an extraordinary partner,” says Sister Loretto. “Seventy percent of contributions come from from St. Thomas More.”
She says not only is Seton Center grateful for the contributions, but so are the recipients.
“They are so grateful for everything. When they walk through the doors we will ask them how they are doing. They will say ‘Oh I’m God blessed!’ and they mean it.” says Sister Loretto.
She recalls a note she received from a man last Christmas. “He said ‘My family was very stressed. You took away our stress. When I can, I’ll pay it forward with God’s love.’”
“I always feel that when they leave here, they have some sense of hope because they’ve been helped in some way,” she says.
If you would like to adopt a family for Christmas or have questions pertaining to the program, contact David Butel at 816-942-2492, ext. 210 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.