Social Concerns
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“Let the person who has two coats give one to someone who has none. Let the person who has food give to those who have none.”
 
Rooted in the Gospel and Catholic social tradition, the St. Jerome Social Concerns Committee strives to create educational and service opportunities in concert with community agencies, calling us all to action for a more just and humane world. The Mission of the Committee is to provide our St. Jerome community with opportunities to fulfill their Christian responsibility of service to those in need, as Jesus Christ asked of us. New members are always welcome. Our meetings are usually on the fourth Monday of the month, September through June, in the Kevin Eidt Youth Room in the church hall. Social Concerns Committee minutes are posted at the very bottom of this page.
 

Ongoing programs

  • Monthly food drives and milk money collections for local food pantries.
  • Monthly meal prepared and served at the Norwalk Emergency Shelter Manna House in South Norwalk.
  • Annual collection for Education & Hope for Guatemalan children
  • Annual Christmas Giving Tree gift collection for needy Norwalk families
  • Funeral lunch reception service available to families
  • Parishioner-to-Parishioner Assistance Program
  • Parishioner-to-Parishioner Services Directory: In 2010 the Social Concerns Committee compiled a directory of those in the parish who work in the trades and other services. Please consult this Parishioner-to-Parishioner Services Directory if you have need of household or other related services.
 

Special programs

During the year there are special appeals, such as a new or “gently used” book collection for Christian Community Action children and school supplies collection for the Carver Center children, used cell phones for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, maternity tops for Birthright of Norwalk Mothers-To-Be, gift packs for Walter Reed veterans, an Earth Day program, Homefront Day-house fix-ups for needy Norwalkers, a coat collection for The Mayor’s Coat Drive, an Emergency Preparedness information distribution, Make-A-Difference Day food collection, and community garden plots to grow vegetables for CCA Food pantry.

CONTACT:
Committee Co-chairs:
Barbara Bagnato, 203-847-7657,
barbara.bagnato@gmail.com
Rebecca Sweeney, 203-840-1838, rebecca@sweeney.net
Food Collection:
Rebecca Sweeney, 203-840-1838,
Widows and Widowers Support Group:
Jeanne Tarrant, 847-9480,
Manna House Soup Kitchen:
Kit McManamon, 846-2182
Funeral Lunch Reception Volunteers:
Francie Mansager, 853-6489, 
Members:
Fr. David Blanchfield
Barbara Bagnato
Sandra Billings
Carol Caragine
Kathy Coyne
Judi Dennehy
Bill Halstead
Kathy Jimenez
Dan Loch
Annette Maiberger
Francie Mansager
Maureen Morrissey
Jennifer Prescott
Sheila Rietano
Honey Secchi
Georgia Smith
Rebecca Sweeney
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Parishioner Assistance    Back to Top
 
If you know a parishioner who could use some extra support, please get in touch with the Social Concerns Committee contact person. The Social Concerns Committee can arrange rides to appointments, supply a needed meal, and help with shopping and household tasks.

Monthly Food Collection/Monthly Milk Collection    Back to Top

St. Jerome’s food drives, which help to stock the shelves of Norwalk’s food pantries, are held on either the third or fourth weekend of each month, as announced. Parishioners bring food donations in bags or boxes and place them in the back of the church or in the church hallway. Needed items are non-perishable boxed, canned, or bottled food items, including:

  • 2Canned beef ravioli, beef stew, spaghetti and meatballs, or chiliLent food drive02
  • 18-oz. jar of grape jelly and peanut butter
  • Canned hearty soup and canned condensed soup
  • 1-lb box rice
  • Canned corn or peas
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned or dried beans
  • Hot or cold cereal
  • Jar of spaghetti sauce
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese
  • Boxed pasta
  • Juice boxes or canned juice
  • Box of Jello or pudding

Our monthly food drives have been a source of food for over 30 years for the South Norwalk food pantry at 76 Main Street which formerly was affiliated with the Christian Community Action group and now is operated by Person-to-Person(P2P). (Click here to seethe food pantry’s thank-you letter to the parish.) For the last several years, we have averaged an annual collection of 15,500 food items – 3,500 from our Special Lenten Food Drive; 2,000 from the combined parish and REACH Thanksgiving Food Drives; and 1,000 food items each month from food drives the remaining 10 months. Because of this overwhelming generosity from the parishioners, in addition to donating to the P2P food pantry we also give 100 food items each month to Mid-Fairfield Aids Project (MFAP) at 16 River Street in Norwalk, 500 food items from both our Special Lenten Food Drive and our Thanksgiving Food Drive to St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Food Pantry at 203 East Avenue in Norwalk, and the food items collected from the 6:00 PM Life Teen Mass each month to the Norwalk Emergency Shelter at 4 Merritt Street in Norwalk.

Our REACH religious education students are faithful contributors to the food drives held from September through May. Each month one class in grades 4-6 stays after the REACH 10:30 AM Mass Sunday morning in the church hall to help unpack, sort the food items by type, and bag them. The sight of the children emptying donation bags and piling up stacks of soup cans, cereal boxes, peanut butter, and the like, genuinely reveals the meaning of “many hands make light work.” When the sorting is finished, the food is loaded into the cars of the committed volunteers who deliver it to the pantries the next day.

St. Jerome’s monthly Milk Fund Collection, a cash offering that purchases milk for local food pantries, was started in January, 2002. For the last several years, we have collected $3,300 each year. These funds provide powdered milk to P2P’s food pantry, and whole milk to the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Food Pantry and to the Norwalk Emergency Shelter.
 
5In addition to their extremely generous response to our monthly food drives and milk fund collections throughout the year, St. Jerome parishioners overwhelmingly have given to our Special Lenten Food Drive, initiated in 2005. Parishioners are invited to provide up to one week’s worth of food for one hungry person who receives food from a local food pantry. A flier with a shopping list of specific items allows parishioners to “shop the list” and donate as many items as possible. In 2005 some 3,000 food items weighing almost 1.5 tons were collected. In 2006 over 40% more was collected: 4,350 food items weighing 2.2 tons! The Norwalk newspaper, The Hour, featured a front page story
about the parish’s outpouring of generosity. A letter to the Editor in the diocesan weekly, The Fairfield County Catholic, described it as the “Food Drive of the Century.” In 2007 a page three article in the Norwalk Hour reported how over 300 parishioners donated another two tons of food to the special Lenten Food Drive. Each of our annual Special Lenten Food Drives has collected an average of 3,500 food items!
In 2009 record-breaking numbers of people are coming to Norwalk’s food pantries seeking the most basic need – food. In 2008 the four food pantries to which we donate served over 1.2 million meals, a staggering increase from previous years. Thankfully, the parishioners of St. Jerome’s do what Jesus taught us: feed the hungry.

Education & Hope Collection for Guatemalan Children    Back to Top

6CONTACT: Kathy Coyne, (203) 856-4273.
Julie Coyne is a parishioner who after college went to study Spanish in Guatemala in 1994 and ended up falling love with the children of that third world country. She went on to start a non-profit organization, Education and Hope. Julie Coyne’s mission in Guatemala is an
official parish ministry. The help we give to her is part of our St. Jerome parish mission.The work of Julie and the foundation is that of providing a good education for over 100 children a year. Julie provides tuition for a private school education and supplements this with an after school program. She helps the children with clothes, school supplies and sometimes medical help. A lead editorial
from May 2008 in the local newspaper, The Hour, praised Julie’s work as a “low-key, home-grown charity that is doing its good work in Guatemala … Providing the means to an education and creating a library may offer the way out of grinding poverty in this tiny village where illiteracy is the norm.”

The need is so great that the program has grown each year and great effort is needed to keep it funded. Every year, usually in September, Julie comes to speak at all the Masses after Communion. In the past several years we have been able to raise about $10,000 to help her children. At Christmas time we also ask for gifts for her children to be placed under the “Giving Tree”. We have made Julie’s work the work of the parish.

3To make a contribution, send to Education & Hope, P.O. Box 486, Norwalk, CT 06856, or email us at guatemalahope@optonline.net. Please see the flier for Education & Hope for what your donations can mean for the children. Detailed information about what Education & Hope does can be found here and photos of the children helped can be seen here. Julie’s ardent message of hope comes out brilliantly in a December letter she wrote to the parish to thank them for their support and can be read here.
 
Julie’s work can be seen in several videos available on YouTube at Education and Hope -YouTube. You will enjoy seeing several excellent videos about the Guatemalan children Julie helps, especially the video about Erik. Occasionally Education and Hope is able to make a much more substantial impact. One video, Casa Diega, is the story of a home built by Education and Hope for a grandmother and the eight children in her care. Donors made it possible to provide her family with a decent home so they might live with dignity.
In September 2011 Julie was inducted into the Norwalk High School Wall of Honor for her tireless work to provide hundreds of poor children in Quetzaltenango a quality life through her Education and Hope program.
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Christmas Giving Tree    Back to Top
The St. Jerome Christmas Giving Tree is a source of help for children in need in Norwalk. Throughout the Advent season, parishioners select a ‘gift wish tag’ from our tree. The ‘wish gift’ is purchased, returned unwrapped and placed under the tree. Items requested include clothing, toys, and books. Each December this annual tradition results in generous donations given to over 75 children from over 40 Christian Community Action families and to nearly 100 children in Julie Coyne’s Education and Hope project in Guatemala.


CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut)    Back to Top

CONTACT: Dan Loch, 203-846-3980, dan_loch@msn.com
Late 2010 St. Jerome’s joined CONECT, a non-partisan, multi-faith organization of 15,000 people from 25 congregations – Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and Muslim – from Norwalk to East Haven CT, who join together 5to effect change in the areas of social and economic justice and policies for the common good. We discover, research, analyze, and articulate a powerful moral voice to negotiate with business and government leaders regarding social, economic, and political issues that affect our member congregations. Issues include obtaining public hearings for health care insurance rate increase requests, disaster relief for those who have lost their homes, job training for real jobs, and driver’s licenses, car registration, and car insurance for the immigrant community.
Fr. David, who has been very active in the CONECT Safe Driving Campaign to obtain drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, explained both the theological and the good common sense reasons for the campaign in a parish weekly bulletin   insert of his “Random Thoughts” column.
 

The CONECT “Do Not Stand Idly By” (DNSIB) gun safety campaign is a market-based, long-term strategy to reward gun manufacturers who take responsibility for safety and sales. The name comes from Leviticus 19:16, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” Rather than a legislative approach, DNSIB seeks to use federal, state, and local government buying power, their purchase of firearms, to pressure gun manufacturers to better police rogue gun dealers, as well as promote gun safety through smart gun technology. Two interviews with Fr. David in the Norwalk Hour newspaper explained the DNSIB campaign in detail:

Reducing the misuse of firearms

Safe manufacture and sale of firearms

 

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“Going Green” at St. Jerome’s    Back to Top

What can we as Christian caretakers of our earth and caregivers of the poor do to affect our environment positively? Concrete tips and vital information about “going green” are provided in a special newsletter sponsored by the Social Concerns Committee. Appearing periodically as an insert in the church bulletin, the “Going Green” Newsletter conveys ideas on how we can actively adapt our behaviors to protect the environment God gave us. Learn how to reuse, recycle, and reduce consumption in simple, friendly, doable ways. With every activity of our daily lives, we connect with the interdependent web of life on earth. The health of our environment is a reflection of the choices we make. Change must begin with us. Change begins with awareness of how the way we act affects the world community, especially the poor and those in need who are most at risk due to climate changes brought on by our use of the world’s resources.

Going Green Newsletter
Manna House, Norwalk “Open Door” Shelter    Back to Top
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CONTACT: Gail Medina, 203-847-5908, gailmedina@optonline.net
St. Jerome volunteers prepare and serve the noon meal at Manna House, 4 Merritt Street, Norwalk, on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Tasks include preparing the main meal (main dish, salad, beverages, and desserts), setting the tables, and clean-up. The kitchen staff reports at 10:30 AM. Servers may arrive at noon. Mealtime is 1:00 to 2:00 PM. Anyone is welcome to join us.

Unwanted Furniture and Household Items    Back to Top

CONTACT Kathy Jacobs, 203-621-0700, Furniture Coordinator, Person-to-Person, Norwalk
Do you have unwanted furniture or household items? Kathy receives requests from Person-to-Person visitors in need of furniture and tries to locate the needed items. Check with Kathy before you throw it away! All donations are tax deductible. Needed items include:
  • Furniture: chairs, bookcases, sofas, love seats, bedroom furniture, and kitchen furniture
  • Household items: large pots for cooking, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, plates, baking pans, and the like.

Widows and Widowers Support Group    Back to Top

CONTACT: Jeanne Tarrant, 847-9480, jmtarrant@optonline.net 
Monthly meetings provide love and support through service and sharing.
Funeral Lunch Reception    Back to Top
CONTACT: Francie Mansager, Home phone: 853-6489, jfman02@hot-mail.com
Volunteers serve a full luncheon in the parish hall after a funeral service. They provide a full meal, help cook, and set up and clean up.

Prayer Shawl Ministry    Back to Top

colorful yarn balls with needles

colorful yarn balls with needles

CONTACT:Marian Ainsworth, 847-7554; Lucy Ely, 847-8756
Since February 2008 several women of the parish in St. Jerome’s Prayer Shawl Ministry have been meeting twice a month to knit and crochet shawls for the sick and homebound. Father Joe blesses these shawls, a prayer card is enclosed with each shawl, and he distributes them on his visits to the sick. The group also has donated 20 shawls to the Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital. Over 60 St. Jerome parishioners have received shawls and the recipients remark that they feel much comfort when wrapped in the shawl. In mid-February 2009 some of the shawls were displayed on the altar steps for all the parishioners to see.

Parishioner-to-Parishioner Business Services Directory    Back to Top

10To encourage parishioner-to-parishioner contacts for needed services and to support skilled workers in the parish, a directory has been compiled of those in the parish who work in services such as: electrical work, home improvement, interior/exterior painting, tree removal, computer repair, tailoring, tutoring, counseling, candidate placement, real estate, and other services. Please click here

 to see this directory.

Homefront Day    Back to Top

Started under the sponsorship of the Pastoral Council, the St. Jerome Americares Homefront Day took place annually from 2006 to 2009 on a Saturday in early May. Americares Homefront is a volunteer home repair program that provides repairs at no cost to homeowners in need.
 
Some 20-30 parishioners of all ages took part annually in providing needed repairs on a house in Norwalk – minor carpentry, work on doors and windows, painting inside and out, general house and yard cleanup, flooring, plumbing, and whatever was needed to help a local neighbor in need. The 2009 St. Jerome Homefront Day made front page news in the local newspaper (click 
 for story).
In 2010 St. Jerome conducted its own Makeover Day and provided needed repairs to the home of a parishioner. The program was then discontinued.
 
Minutes of the Social Concerns Committee     Back to Top