Holiday project at Cathedral of Hope started more than 20 years ago
The Cathedral of Hope’s holiday gift basket ministry — which feeds hundreds of families each Thanksgiving —typically doesn’t get cranked up until sometime after Halloween.
But this year, with the economy in its deepest recession in decades, the ministry started receiving requests for baskets in September.
Michael Kimery, a lay member who’s run the gift basket ministry with his partner, Glenn Wessler, for the last 13 years, hopes to give away up to 500 baskets this Thanksgiving, which would be a record.
Each basket contains supplies to prepare a traditional meal for 4-6 people, or an average family. As is the tradition, the baskets will be dropped off by donors and picked up by recipients in the church’s west parking lot on the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
"If we were to take every single basket request that came through, we would probably have over 1,000 baskets needed this year," Kimery said. "We’ll do as many as we can, but the requests have been just pouring in."
The Rev. William Baldridge, the Cathedral’s pastor for community outreach and benevolence, said the basket ministry began more than 20 years ago and has become the congregation’s chief holiday giving project.
Baldridge said the baskets are allocated first to those in need within the congregation, then to clients from outside agencies. This year those agencies are AIDS Interfaith Network and Volunteers of America.
Beginning the first week of November, a table is set up after Sunday services where people can sign up to give or receive baskets, Baldridge said. Donors can either give money or obtain a list and do the shopping themselves.
"That’s the method we really encourage, where people become involved by going to the grocery store, buying the food, and hopefully praying over it as they put it in the basket," Baldridge said. "That person is blessed from receiving, and you are blessed from the act of giving."
Baldridge confirmed that the Cathedral has seen an increase in requests this year, not only for the gift basket ministry but also for other forms of assistance.
"The increase I’ve seen is folks calling in to the church who are not necessarily members, from the neighborhood, and they hear about us, and they call and are in desperate need of rent, or utility bills, or gas to go to jobs, or bus passes," Baldridge said.
Unfortunately, Baldridge said the church’s benevolence fund is running low right now, in part because people aren’t able to give as much.
"I’m encouraged that people are doing what they can, but the need is so great," he said. "There’s often not enough money to help fulfill all of the requests."
Although it’s too late to sign up for the Thanksgiving gift basket program, Baldridge encouraged people to get involved in one of four Christmas benevolence projects, including another basket drive. He said they can do so by calling the Cathedral at 214-351-1901.
David Plunkett, a spokesman for the Cathedral, noted that the holiday projects are part of a much larger, year-round benevolence ministry. According to the Cathedral’s Web site, the congregation gives away $1 million worth of direct financial aid and service to the community each year.
Plunkett said the iCare team, a group of benevolence volunteers who greet people when they come into the church during the week, has received more than 2,000 visits since January. And Breakfast @ the Cathedral of Hope provides a free, hot breakfast to approximately 250 hungry people each Saturday.
Kimery, the member who oversees the holiday gift basket ministry, said it’s become so popular over the years that it’s spawned three other benevolence projects. Kimery and his partner also oversee the Christmas basket program, the Lenten basket program at Easter and the summertime Crayola Crusade.
"Once it’s in your blood, you just kind of never let it out," Kimery said. "It’s a lot of work, but when you see the people’s faces that you’re helping, it’s just a sense of joy. It’s like this is what I was meant to do is to be part of this ministry and to be part of a church that does something so grand."
WHERE YOU CAN GIVE
• Agape Metropolitan Church in Fort Worth is collecting sleeping bags through Thanksgiving to donate to Operation Warmth, a homeless shelter. The church is at 4615 E. California Parkway in Fort Worth. For more info, call 817-528-3210.
• LULAC 4871is collecting cardboard boxes and cake mix packages until Dec. 11 to deliver meals to Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry, Oak Lawn immigrant families and AIDS Interfaith Network on Dec. 12. LULAC 4871 will be accepting donations for its "Cena En El Barrio" food delivery project at its November general meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24 at Hungdinger’s Restaurant, 4000 Cedar Springs Road, Suite E, in Dallas. For more info, go to www.lulac4871.org.
• For the second consecutive year AIDS Arms Inc. will be hosting the Santa Pub Crawl, an annual holiday drive that collects toys and donations for children impacted by HIV/AIDS. Dressed as Santa and holiday elves from 7 p.m. Dec. 10 to 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, volunteers will travel across Oak Lawn to bring cheer to local bars through laughter, drinks and the compilation of toys and donations. For more information, call (214) 521-5191 ext. 314, e-mail Margaret Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.aidsarms.org.
• Central 214 restaurant will host a Thanksgiving meal Thursday, Nov. 26 benefiting the food pantry at Resource Center Dallas. The meal will feature chef Blythe Beck’s "naughty" take on Southern favorites. The price is $45 per person or $22 for children 12 and under, with $5 for every meal going to charity. Call 214-443-9339 to make reservations. Central 214 is at 5680 N. Central Expressway in Dallas.
• Volunteers from Frito Lay’s EQUAL group will prepare and serve a Thanksgiving meal beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24 for clients of the Daire Center at AIDS Interfaith Network. The cost of the meal is being underwritten by EQUAL. There will be an open mic inviting clients to sing and say words of thanks, as well as holiday arts and crafts projects. For more info on AIDS Interfaith, go to www.aidsinterfaithnetwork.org or e-mail Executive Director Steven Pace at email@example.com. For more info on EQUAL, e-mail Suzanne Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats will host a happy hour/charity drive from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20 at Club Rush, 3903 Lemmon Ave. in Dallas. Members and friends are encouraged to bring a canned good or toy to donate to the North Texas Food Bank and Resource Center Dallas. For more info, go to http://www.dallasstonewallyd.org.
• Four clubs owned by Caven Enterprises —JR’s, Sue Ellen’s, TMC and Station 4 — will be hosting a food drive for the Resource Center Dallas food pantry from now until after Christmas. Guests can bring canned and non-perishable items to any of the clubs and drop them off in the drop off boxes located in each club. Caven employees will make sure that all items get to the food pantry. For more info, go to www.caven.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20, 2009.