PITTSBURGH, PA

Helping the needy a part of life at Franklin Park parish

Friday, February 15, 2002 - Updated: 12:01 am
Patricia Bartos, Senior Staff Writer
At St. John Neumann in Franklin Park, social outreach
is a way of life.

At any given time, volunteers may be building a Habitat
for Humanity house, sorting donations at the Greater
Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, serving meals at
Light of Life Shelter on Pittsburgh?s North Side, packing
sandwiches, visiting nursing homes, preparing for their
summer Appalachian workcamp or rounding up
bicycles for shipment to poor children in Nicaragua.

The parish bulletin is jam-packed with news of these
outreach efforts, which are underway year-round at St.
John Neumann.

Father William Bovard, pastor, has always stressed
such opportunities for his 1,400-family parish.

?Our parish outreach activities help further the kingdom
of God,? he said.

?The two unmistakable signs of the kingdom ? people
coming together, people receiving hope ? are present.
We give our time in service, but are given so much
more in return,? he said. ?We follow the call to do God's
work."

Sarah Schneider, the parish?s community outreach
coordinator, oversees much of this activity. The parish
has built up a rich history of commitment.

This summer will mark its 16th Appalachia Workcamp
in West Virginia. As many as 72 people have joined
these crews, and last summer they helped at 22 home
sites in Preston County.

?We go down in April to scope out our work projects,?
Schneider said.

Family involvement is an important element. ?Last year,
there was a family of five, and I know this year we have
another family of five,? Schneider said.

Parents and children often work together, and couples
continue even after their children have grown up.

Parishioners have helped with the Habitat for Humanity
workcamp, now in Erie, for 11 years. This monthly effort
?always involves family members working together,?
Schneider said. ?It?s very important for young people.?

For 10 years, parishioners have been going twice each
month to help sort donated goods at the Greater
Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, now located in
Duquesne.

This work earns free food vouchers for Perry Hilltop and
Incarnation food banks on Pittsburgh?s North Side. Both
adult and teen crews were there on Martin Luther King
Day.

Volunteers help at the nearby World Vision International
Relief Agency distribution center and the Pittsburgh
Project?s winter workcamp.

The parish?s Christmas Sharing Tree, a project of the
Community Life Committee, distributed more than
2,500 gifts, plus cash donations for food certificates
given to the Perry Hilltop Food Bank.

Building Hands in Service, begun by teen-agers
returning from the parish?s Appalachian workcamp in
1990, also offers monthly service evenings open to the
whole parish. The group is an ?umbrella name for
much that we do,? Schneider said.

Recent projects have included making sandwiches for
the homeless through Operation Save A Life and
Operation Safety Net in October, filling 100 large
Appalachia Christmas stockings in November,
preparing 360 candy bags in December for children on
the parish?s Christmas Sharing Tree and for women at
Miryam?s Shelter in Uptown Pittsburgh. These candies
came from donated Halloween treats.

St. John Neumann also believes in recycling. ?Economy
allows us to be generous,? a recent parish bulletin
advised. It also seeks unused or wrong-sized
Christmas gifts, for recycling to people in need in
Appalachia.

Sandwich-making is always popular.
Volunteers gathered after Ash Wednesday Mass to
prepare more than 100 of them, with small extras,
including Valentines, for delivery the next day to Wood
Street Commons residence Downtown.

?We've done the sandwich packets a couple of times a
year after a Mass or penance service or just an ordinary
evening,? Schneider said.

They also fill Easter baskets for a Holy Family party for
the Focus on Renewal Center in McKees Rocks.

Teenagers prepare toiletry bags for Operation Safety
Net, an outreach to Pittsburgh?s homeless.

Preschoolers bring baby items for the Genesis center.

Renew groups and CCD classes visit nursing homes.

?We also do meals at Miryam?s and Pleasant Valley
shelters through our Community Life Committee,?
Schneider said.

That committee also oversees the annual Wheels of
Love collection on May 18 that ships bikes and other
donations to Nicaragua.

These wide-ranging efforts have been expanding and
growing over the years, Schneider said. ?We have a
large volunteer base. We want people to know that
Sunday is not all there is.

?Father Bovard promotes this in his homilies. It?s very
much a part of our culture here at the parish.?


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