By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Friendly House has been helping families in need at Christmas for longer than any employee can remember, said Assistant Director Terry Hendershott.
“It predates all of us,” he said, recalling a 60-year-old man who came in recently to reminisce about the toy dump truck he received as a child from Santa Claus at a Friendly House event. “He still has it.”
Friendly House’s mission is to respond to the needs of children, families and seniors through quality, affordable services that enrich lives and strengthen neighborhoods and the community. Christmas tends to be a time of great stress for people experiencing poverty or who live paycheck to paycheck, so Friendly House offers donor-provided gifts and holiday meal baskets to families in need each December.
While people are generally enthusiastic about buying gifts for children, Henderschott said they generally don’t get as excited about making monetary donations for food. That’s where CRS Rice Bowl has been an enormous help, he said. Friendly House has come to rely on the Rice Bowl grants to help purchase hams, potatoes, canned vegetables, rolls, pies and macaroni and cheese boxes for the holiday baskets. Last year, Friendly House received a $1,500 grant.
It’s a more elaborate meal than what most food pantries can offer, and a more complete meal than what some families can afford on their own, Hendershott said. “People want to get together and have a full meal as a family … these people are no different.”
The baskets are given to anyone who expresses a need. In the fall, people can come in and fill out a form indentifying holiday needs and wishes. Friendly House does not have a minimum salary requirement. “We feel that if they are coming in to ask, that’s humbling enough,” Hendershott said. “Many of them are just trying to get by. They want to provide a good Christmas for their kids and just can’t do it.”
Volunteers put the packages together in mid-December for recipients to pick up. The Rice Bowl grant, in addition to other monetary donations, helped Friendly House serve 937 people from 280 families last year.
Each year, 25 percent of the Rice Bowl collection benefits programs such as Friendly House, which provide direct services to alleviate poverty and hunger in the Diocese of Davenport.
In order to be considered, a program must operate within the diocese’s geographical boundaries and conform to the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Davenport awarded $22,000 in grants last year to 16 organizations in southeast Iowa. The remaining 75 percent of the nearly $90,000 raised last year helped CRS address causes of global hunger in 45 countries throughout the world.
Kent Ferris, director of the diocesan Social Action office, said the CRS Rice Bowl Grant Review Committee is pleased to support Friendly House’s holiday baskets through the generosity of Catholics in the diocese. “We appreciate the extent to which Friendly House knows the need in their part of Davenport and tries so hard to respond to the need year-round, including during the holiday season.”
Teresa Dunbar, CRS’s Midwest relationship manager, said she is impressed with the way parishes in the Davenport Diocese rally support for Rice Bowl each year and make it possible for the diocese to support programs like Friendly House. “Davenport gives more than other dioceses in our region with over twice as many Catholics,” she gushed. The Rice Bowl collection will continue through Easter, April 16.