Diocesan Poverty Relief Collection benefits ACCHS Central City Project

A grant from the Diocesan Poverty Relief Fund Collection, slated for Saturday, Nov. 19 and Sunday, Nov. 20 at parishes in the Diocese of Allentown, was critical in aiding Allentown Central Catholic High School (ACCHS) continue its outreach to low-income neighborhoods in their city.

The school, which operates the Central City Project (CCP), was awarded a $4,000 grant to help support the Amy Sullivan Memorial Garden, a student-run urban garden. Produce from the garden is donated to local food pantries and provides ingredients for “Viking Salsa,” which is sold to fund other social projects.

Now in its fourth year, the urban garden allows students to be a part of all phases of growing. Students work together to plant seeds, tend to growing plants in the school library and transplant the vegetation into the garden in May.

“During the summer months students weed, water,” said Patrick Markham, CCP coordinator and ACCHS theology teacher.

“The urban garden is especially valuable for providing fresh produce to two local food pantries at Central Elementary School and one at Jefferson Middle School that serve these residents.”

Another part of CCP is the Central City Project Community Dinners, which are provided to low-income residents throughout the year is the monthly “Community Dining Experience” at Catholic Charities’ Ecumenical Kitchen, Allentown.

“The event is an opportunity for the community to share a meal prepared by the students and staff. These dinners are served as a restaurant-like experience, a sit-down dinner complete with soup, salad, a choice of entrees and desserts served on glass dishes. This sounds simple,  but the impact on a person’s dignity when treated to the ‘dining out’ experience most of us take for granted is immeasurable,” said Markham.

Father Mark Searles, ACCHS chaplain, said CCP evolved from the school’s location in the heart of the city and growing number of people in need.

“From the corner of Fourth and Chew streets, we can be the change we hope to see in the world. We serve those most in need while encouraging our students and families to do the same for the rest of their lives wherever their vocation and profession might take them,” said Father Searles.

“The project not only helps to teach students the value of serving their neighbor, but also gives them a variety of practical, hands-on life skills. It is such a blessing to see so many students go out of their way to help another, not because of a required number of service hours, but because their heart is in their work and they want to make this world a better place starting right here in our neighborhood.”

Last year the collection netted $90,400 and grants were awarded to 17 parishes and diocesan organizations in their endeavors to reduce poverty. Last year the fund also awarded:

  • $1,000 to the Divine Mercy Cenacle at St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield for its food pantry.
  • $4,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown to provide basic needs in emergency situations.
  • $8,000 to Holy Family Manor, Bethlehem to cover unreimbursed medical care for residents not covered by insurance.
  • $2,000 to SVDP at St. Columbkill, Boyertown for rent and food assistance.
  • $10,000 to SVDP at Notre Dame of Bethlehem for rent and food assistance.
  • $6,000 to Mary’s Shelter, Reading, a residence for pregnant, homeless young women and teens in Reading and Bethlehem, for operational expenses for food, clothing and utilities.
  • $14,000 to SVDP at St. Benedict, Mohnton.
  • $5,000 to St. Peter the Fisherman, Lake Harmony for the food pantry.
  • $8,000 to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown for Central Elementary School Counseling and Case Management Project.
  • $5,000 to Stephen’s Place, Bethlehem to assist men transitioning from prison.
  • $500 to St. Mary, Kutztown.
  • $5,000 to Sacred Heart of Jesus, Allentown for the Spanish Apostolate.
  • $6,000 to SVDP at St. Anne, Bethlehem.
  • $9,400 to School Sisters of St. Francis for the Monocacy Farm Project.
  • $2,500 to Sacred Heart, Palmerton for Family Promise Program