By Emmaline Jurgena
For The Catholic Messenger
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl collection continues to grow in donations, generating $85,009 this year. The total is up from $82,353 in 2015, and a vast increase from $63,386 in 2014. Twenty-five percent of the funds collected in the Davenport Diocese stay in the diocese; 75 percent go to CRS programs around the world.
In the diocese, funds are distributed in grants to local organizations with anti-hunger and social justice causes. Loxi Hopkins, a volunteer in the Diocesan Social Action office, attributed the continued increase in donations to improved outreach and more informed donors.
The implementation of a breakfast program to increase awareness of the rice bowl campaign has been an area of success, Hopkins said. The Rice Bowl program kicked off with a breakfast at St. Thomas More in Coralville, and lay leaders in the Hispanic ministry conducted a conference call to discuss fundraising material.
“If [donors] have a clear understanding of what that number goes toward, they will be more likely to contribute,” she said.
Grants in the amount of $22,000 have been distributed this year to various organizations in the community that are committed to fighting hunger and working toward social justice. In total, 16 local organizations in the diocese received funding assistance through these grants. The organizations:
• Agape Center, Bettendorf
• Friendly House, Davenport
• Concerned DeWitt Citizens, DeWitt
• Henry Co. Help to Others, Mount Pleasant
• Information, Referral & Assistance Services, Clinton
• North Liberty Community Pantry, North Liberty
• Progressive Baptist Church, Davenport
• Project Renewal, Davenport
• Riverside Community Food pantry, Riverside
• Sacred Heart Cathedral Food Pantry, Davenport
• Sacred Heart Catholic Community, Newton
• St. James Social Action Committee, Washington
• St. Thomas More Social Action Commission, Coralville
• Diversity Service Center of Iowa, Muscatine
• The Lord’s Cupboard of Jefferson County, Fairfield
• Helping Hands Food Pantry, Knoxville
St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City raised the most funds for the Rice Bowl effort, reporting $5,490 donated. Other parishes improved their fundraising significantly, including St. Thomas More in Coralville, Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport, St. Mary in Fairfield, St. Mary of the Visitation in Ottumwa and St. Mary in Wilton, all of which increased their total amounts by more than $1,000 since 2015.
Kent Ferris, director of the Diocesan Social Action Office, noted that an improvement in education and engagement about the issues that the collection helps to address leads to more donations.
“With any collection, our primary responsibility is to explain the reason for that collection,” Ferris said, adding that understanding the issues as one’s own community is an important part of the Rice Bowl campaign. “The thing I like about the Rice Bowl is that it has a global reach with a local impact.”
CCHD also sees improvement in funds raised
Grants to Quad Cities Interfaith in Davenport and the Center for Worker Justice in Iowa City were also funded by diocesan donations. A total of $8,800 was given to these two groups from donations received in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). As with the Rice Bowl collection, CCHD retains 25 percent of local donations to use for grants. Seventy-five percent of the money raised in the Davenport Diocese goes toward national grants, some of which have previously been awarded to projects in the diocese. Kick-off breakfasts were added this year at St. Vincent Center in Davenport and St. Mary’s in Iowa City.
Ferris said that short DVDs about the CCHD were given out at a parish breakfast, and breakfast attendees were encouraged to share them at their own parishes.
Ferris again cites increased awareness and understanding of the CCHD for the increase in funds raised. To continue this trend, the Social Action Office has put $500 of the funds raised this year toward a one-day workshop that will provide diocesan-wide community organization training. Hopkins said she expects this workshop to take place in the fall.