It was an image that stays with one forever. A wide-eyed little girl smiling broadly because she had just found a winter coat that fit her. A smile that got even broader when she was told that the coat was hers to keep.
There were many such images at last year’s inaugural Christ’s Hands Project giveaway event, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Catholic in cooperation with the Red Door ministry of St. Mary of Mercy Parish in Downtown Pittsburgh. The drive collected new or gently worn winter hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, hats and afghans that were given to adults and children who need warm clothing.
This year’s drive has kicked off and will end with the distribution of items at the Red Door’s Christmas Dinner Dec. 15 in Lawless Hall of St. Mary of Mercy.
“We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ and assist those in need,” said Carmella Weismantle, operations manager and director of advertising for the Pittsburgh Catholic. The publication is appealing to all who sew, knit, crochet, enjoy shopping or prefer to send money. No donation is considered too small, especially if it is accompanied by prayers.
Heidi Potter is a volunteer coordinator for the Red Door. She pointed out that the donated items fill a practical need by providing warmth, but they also demonstrate that people care for those in need. “It testifies to the goodness that we have in our hearts and of our desire to do good,” she said.
One of the unexpected gifts of the project, she noted, is that not only does Christ allow us to be his hands, he allows those we serve to witness to us.
Popular items for folks to donate include any kind of Steelers gear. There is also a growing need for donations for men.
Weismantle spoke of the gratitude shown by those who received the donations, adding, “They were smiling. It was obvious the day made a difference.”
Both Weismantle and Potter spoke of their joy in meeting the people and sharing their stories. Many of them, they noted, spoke of how they had hit hard times after losing their jobs or experiencing illnesses.
Potter related the story of a homeless man who had his possessions stolen. Rather than become angry, she said, he noted that the items had been given to him and that God would provide for him.
The donated items do not just benefit the Red Door during Christmas, but are distributed throughout the winter. Potter said that she still sees people carrying the Christ’s Hands bags that were distributed last year.
The Red Door has served the hungry for nearly 90 years on the Boulevard of the Allies in Downtown Pittsburgh. It provides lunches six days a week — Monday through Saturday — and hosts an Easter dinner and other gatherings. Donations and volunteers are always welcome. Potter noted that even donations such as pet food are accepted. She said a pet may be someone’s only real companion, and people will give up their food for them.
Donated items can be delivered Monday through Friday to the St. Mary of Mercy rectory office, 202 Stanwix St., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information, call Potter at the Red Door at 412-261-0110.
Checks should be made payable to the Pittsburgh Catholic and designated for “Christ’s Hands Project.” Mail to Christ’s Hands Project, Pittsburgh Catholic, 111 Boulevard of the Allies, Suite 200, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222.
Upcoming stories will spotlight the progress of this year’s project.