Every Sunday in July, Deacon Jay Reiser greeted Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioners after Sunday services and collected donations for the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. Hundreds of churchgoers participated, stopping to chat with Reiser and offer canned and boxed foods.
Each week Reiser called on parishioners to donate a different type of item. One weekend it was boxed macaroni and cheese, jars of peanut butter, another canned meats. One weekend featured boxed cereal. More than $5,000 in both monetary and food donations were collected throughout the month.
“People were so excited, they asked why we don’t do this every month,” said Reiser. “Collections at the food pantry go down during the summer, so this is often when the need is the greatest.”
The food collection program was a part of a larger outreach program launched by Our Lady of Perpetual Help for the summer, dubbed “Summer in His Service.” Beginning in July, each month one of the church’s deacons leads an outreach effort. Reiser spearheaded the canned food drive. Deacon Dick Karl attempted to gain more church volunteers. Deacon Kevin McCarthy rounded up volunteers for a beach cleanup day.
“This was a chance to highlight our deacons and let parishioners work alongside them,” said Margaret Shapiro, campaign coordinator for the parish. “We wanted to find a way to impact the parish and Santa Clarita and have a global impact.”
Shapiro came up with the idea to have each of the deacons lead a project for the church, not only as a way to outreach into the greater community, but also to give parishioners an opportunity to meet the deacons and get to know them beyond seeing them assist at church services.
August’s Summer in His Service project is led by deacon Kevin McCarthy. He is rallying volunteers to head to Ventura on Aug. 27 to clean up trash at the beach. The effort will be in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, which hosts a beach cleanup every month.
“Summer is usually a slow time for the parish, but we wanted to do something that kept ministry of the parish in the forefront of our brains,” Shapiro said. “It also gave the deacons the opportunity to meet a lot of new people that they normally wouldn’t encounter.”
Reiser estimates nearly three-quarters of the church participated in July’s food drive. The team hopes to garner as much parish support for the beach cleanup.
“It was amazing to see people that may not have been able to afford what they gave offer donations,” said Reiser. “People really reached into their hearts to give.”
Deacon Dick Karl has attended OLPH for 40 years and has been a deacon for 26 of those years. He explained the importance of service and how it can grow a person’s perspective and circle of friends.
He is heading up the service project for September, focusing on gaining new volunteers for the church and rounding up volunteers for the upcoming OLPH 72nd annual barbecue.
“Churches often have core people who come out to volunteer year after year,” said Karl. “I want to encourage the old cadre to help new members get involved. I can chat with people, offer a smile, give them all the help I can and let the Holy Spirit move them.”
Karl uses his own life as an example of how service can change a person. He worked as a Lockheed engineer for many years when he felt the calling to become a deacon. He admits he didn’t want to become a deacon and tried to ignore the call.
“It turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Karl said. “I’ve discovered there is truly more fun in giving. I’ve also gotten to meet hundreds of people, and found the more people you know the happier you will be.”
Karl explained he and his wife have multiple families who have “adopted” them, affectionately calling them “Pop Pop” and “Mama.”
“Our relationship with God is one on one, but when we come together in service its about God and us,” said Karl. “The more you are of service to one another, the more you become us.”