What began as a convent for Saint Brigid's school almost 85 years ago is now transformed into our Outreach Center. Over five years ago, Father Ralph had a dream of bringing all the outreach services (Saint Brigid's Well, Casa Mary Johanna and our Food Pantry) into a single building. For various reasons, the original site of the outreach center was not able to be materialized. Soon after Father Tony arrived, we had various parish-wide listening sessions (among our various language groups) and we had decided to bring all of the outreach services into the Schaefer Center.
In some respects, the decision was already being made for us; the leases of the buildings where both the Well and Casa Mary Johanna were operating were no longer able to be extended. Those services moved into the Schaefer Center, sharing spaces with the administrative and clergy offices in the parish. Soon a plan was developed to renovate the second floor of Saint Anthony's Hall, move the clergy and administration out of the Schaefer Center, and make room so that the food pantry could enter into a newly renovated space in the Schaefer Center. And so, here we are, five years in the planning, and finally Father Ralph's dream has now come to pass.
Since January of this past year, we have been fixing walls and painting and carpeting the Schaefer Outreach Center. We have constructed safe and hygienic food storage areas, as well as created new office spaces for the volunteers and director of the food pantry. Joan Echausse and Ximena Aravena take on new offices on the first floor and Yanira Chacon, Barbara Powell and Lupé Ramirez expand their needed space on the second floor. In addition, a new space was created for baby items that can be given to expectant mothers.
The work of creating the Schaefer Outreach Center also entailed some structural work to keep the building safe and dry -- new leaders and gutters as well as a new drainage system and upgraded electrical wiring was put into place. A new walkway was created so as to allow food deliveries to be able to be brought more easily to the rear entrance of the Center. Finally, the remaining food and freezers are being moved into the center and all the work is on the verge of being completed.
But the work does not end there. Parish Outreach faces new challenges in the wake of growing fears among some members of the immigrant community that we serve. As TPS (temporary protected status) protections soon end for members of the Haitian, Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants, there is an understandable reluctance among some members of these communities to register for assistance when registration leaves a record that later could expose them to deportation when TPS ceases to exist. Something as simple as following the gospel directive to feed the hungry now becomes so complicated during these times that are so challenging for immigrant populations. In other words, it is not enough to simply have a nice building where services can be provided for those in need. We need to find new and creative ways to seek out and reach those people who may be reluctant to come to us for assistance. Our Parish Outreach will grow -- but only as the result of a combined prayer and determination of all of our parishioners to carry out that which Jesus has called us to do for the least of his brothers and sisters.