A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Least Of My Brothers and Sisters

(Above: Saint Vincent de Paul)

Every neighborhood should have someone like Bob.
(That's not his real name. I changed it to protect his family's privacy.)
He was one of those guys who know everyone on the block. Parents felt safe letting their kids play outside because they knew Bob would be keeping a watchful eye on them.
But one day he was killed by a stray bullet meant for someone who was running past him on the street. He was just an innocent bystander.
His family was devastated. And, since this was a high-crime area, they kept getting traumatized all over again every time they heard a gunshot, which was almost every day.
The obvious solution was to move, but there was a problem: Bob had been devoted to his dog, a pit bull. And his family couldn't bear to give the pooch away; it was their last link to him. But there aren't many landlords willing to rent to someone with a pit bull.
But Deb Collett, a case supervisor at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, wouldn't give up. She searched and searched and finally found a willing landlord in another city nearby.
They had to leave the kids' swing set and sandbox behind when they moved. So Catholic Charities provided the money to buy another swing set, and Collett personally built a sandbox in their new backyard.
"We finally have a home where we feel safe," said Bob's son.
That's just one of thousands of families and individuals whom Catholic Charities helps every year. Whether you're a low-income patient with AIDS, a working person who needs help getting a tax refund, or a recently arrived immigrant from Cambodia in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter, Catholic Charities is often your last, best hope.
And you don't have to be Catholic. They just want to help, no matter who you are.
Catholic Charities of the East Bay has been doing this since it was founded in 1934, during the depths of the Great Depression.
The organization will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Nov. 6 with a gala fundraiser at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville. (Call 510-768-3138 to make your reservation.)
Even if you can't attend, you can still contribute by visiting www.cceb.org or sending a check to 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland, CA 94607. (Catholic Charities also gets major funding from Oakland's Measure Y.)
But the heart and soul of Catholic Charities is its volunteers, and you don't need big bucks to do that. Just call 510-768-3121 to sign up.
Get creative, like Dorothy Buckley of Oakland. Back in 1986 she decided to tackle an obvious problem: Some kids never get a Christmas present because their families are so poor.
She started buying toys at sales during the rest of the year to distribute at Christmas time. She named the project "Joybells," and her motto was "Every time you give a child a present, you ring a bell in heaven."
Buckley died in 2008, but Joybells is going stronger than ever, with more than 20 volunteers carrying on in her spirit. For 23 Christmases, they have collected tens of thousands of toys for needy children in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
They haven't forgotten Jesus' admonition: "As you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me." And neither should we.

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