On the first Saturday in June a volunteer appreciation day was held for the Food, Faith & Friends volunteers. The day was organized and implemented by the men who attend Old St. Joseph’s outreach program. They have been asking me if they could do this since I became the coordinator of the program last September. So that Saturday in June the tables were turned. Guests who regularly attend the program took over the kitchen, prepared and served the meal for the parish volunteers who make the program happen.

I wish all of you could have been there because without your generous help and support this program could not have had such a successful year. Thanks to 2884 volunteer hours, we were open 111 days and served 6226 meals. Meals will continue to be served into August this year.

Parishioners donated meals to celebrate special occasions in their lives this year including milestone birthdays. A full Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas party were also donated meals. During the year community sponsors got involved with Beneficial Bank staffers helping serve every month. Berkshire Hathaway Fox Roach staffers donated their time and cooking talents to prepare and serve a meal. And when the Ancient Order of the Hibernians took over the kitchen to prepare their famous sloppy “doe” burgers, the hall went wild – wild for venison that is.

In addition to a nutritious meal, Food, Faith & Friends offers a series of programs. Parishioner Jeanmarie Zippo provides the men with casework services every Saturday. The monthly University of Penn Hospital programs, under the direction of Matt Menard, focus on health topics important to our guests. Hospital professionals present programs on topics such as diabetes, nutrition, and anger management. Fr. Dan conducts a monthly discussion group. And Fr. Ed and three members of the parish – Cynthia Locke, Carolyn Lyons, and John Trumbore – direct Saturday Prayer Groups based on the Ignatian Examen.

A new initiative this year is the Newsletter. The original idea was to provide our guests with a monthly list of what programs were happening when. But after forming an editorial board made up of guests who attend regularly, it quickly developed into an opportunity for men and volunteers to share stories, history, inspirations and artwork. The newsletter continues to evolve. Full color copies can be found on the OSJ church website.

There were many unexpected blessings and random acts of kindness this year.

The brutal February weather caused a Massachusetts man to be delayed in Philadelphia for a day while heading home to Boston. Arriving home he sent us a ten pack of SEPTA tokens with the following note:   “…unfamiliar with SEPTA’s fare system, (we) ended up purchasing excess subway tokens. I’m sending you those tokens so that your community members most in need – perhaps those involved in the Food, Faith, and Friends program I read about on your website – may use them.” Those tokens took men to medical appointments, job interviews, educational classes, and home to family.

An unsolicited gift at Christmas of over 60 pairs of woolen socks from SockPanda, a California online sock retailer, kept the men’s feet warm throughout the winter. And every Saturday morning, a socially minded trio of bakers delivers 60 warm muffins to Barbelin Hall for the men to enjoy with their coffee.

But Food, Faith & Friends best gifts and graces are you, the Old St. Joseph church parishioners. Fifty of you generously donate your time and talents every week to provide our guests with a welcoming atmosphere, good food, and spiritual programs. Many of you generously donate toiletries that are always requested. And you welcome in fellowship the men who choose to participate in parish life, activities, and service days. Thank you one and all!

© 2015 Mary Freedman