Holy Family Parish offering lunch assistance
Holy Family Parish in Omaha expanded its daily lunch program July 1.
Omaha's homeless can pick up brown bag lunches at the side door of Holy Family Church on 17th and Izard streets at least through the month of August.
The brown-bag program has been a part of the parish for about two years, said Deacon Ralph Hueser, administrator at Holy Family. It already serves 150-200 lunches daily at its location at 27th and St. Mary Avenue.
The parish decided to expand the program at a time when day services for the homeless have decreased throughout the city.
"That's our charter," Deacon Hueser said. "We're a very small parish and our total mission is serving the poor."
The Siena/Francis House has provided lunches at the Gene Leahy Mall downtown since it closed its day program this month.
Deacon Hueser said that with the expansion of the program, the parish expects to distribute another 150-200 sandwiches to homeless in the Holy Family and Siena/Francis House area.
While the Siena/Francis House is being remodeled this summer and while the nearby Dorothy Day House is closed during the months of July and August, Deacon Hueser said he expects to serve lunch to the homeless who normally get their lunches from those two locations.
"The fact is that many of the street people may or may not get breakfast," he said. "Almost all of them will get an evening meal, but during the day time the pickings can be pretty slim."
When Holy Family took over the brown-bag program two years ago, they assumed much of the responsibility of buying the materials for the lunches, Deacon Hueser said. But with the help of donations, and of other parishes - St. Rose Church in Omaha and St. Mary Church in Bellevue - they have been able to maintain the program. Volunteers make sandwiches every week, he said.
Deacon Hueser stressed that the parish has not totally agreed to assume the entire brown-bag program. The parish still needs to find out what other churches in the area can do to help.
"We'll see if we can pick up the slack," he said, noting that he is seeking the help of the Coalition for the Homeless.
To handle the lunch program in the St. Peter Church neighborhood, it costs the parish $200-$250 each month. To double that program will double the cost, Deacon Hueser said.
Because Holy Family is a small parish - only 55 families - it is looking for financial assistance to help buy materials for the lunches. It's also looking for volunteers to make the sandwiches in the mornings.
Deacon Hueser said it takes six to eight people about an hour and a half to make 350-400 sandwiches. Currently Holy Family makes them on Sundays, St. Rose Parish has Tuesdays and St. Mary Parish covers Fridays.
"If we go distributing every day to that quantity, then we're going to need people on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday morning. We need people power and we need financial power," he said.
Deacon Hueser said the brown-bag program is an important ministry because it's part of the Gospel.
"There are numerous references in the Gospels about being concerned about the poor and feeding the hungry," he said.