On an 80-degree Sunday in November, it may not have felt like the holiday season, but the spirit of giving was in the air at Clark Field last weekend. St. Anthony High School’s Campus Ministry hosted a “Socks & Supper” drive with assistance from the Long Beach Rescue Mission (LBRM), collecting donations of socks and a variety of classic Thanksgiving foods to assist the Long Beach community.
Assistant Principal Chris McGuiness is also the campus minister at St. Anthony, and was one of the main organizers of the event along with Religious Studies teacher Aaron Mascaro. In a typical year, the school would host its annual Thanksgiving dinner for community members in need, cooking up more than 60 turkeys along with sides by the pound. McGuinness said the tradition dates back at least 35 years to when he was a student on campus, but the pandemic forced a change of plans for the Saints this year.
“We’ve always done a Thanksgiving meal at the school through campus ministry, and we usually feed about 700-800 people when we do that,” McGuiness explained. “We still wanted to give back, especially to the homeless, so this was the next best thing we could do, is at least get the food to the people who can still serve the meals. So we partnered with the Long Beach Rescue Mission and they’re going to take all the donations and make sure people can get fed during the holiday season.”
Nick Roberts is the Volunteer Program Director with the Long Beach Rescue Mission, and he stressed the importance of these food drives, especially during the pandemic.
“These events are wonderful, because we are a non-profit organization, so we rely on donations and people giving in this time of year,” Roberts said. “2020 has been kind of tough for us. Some of our events have been canceled due to COVID, so we’re really reliant on people to provide canned food and other resources so that we can sustain the meals we provide–not only to our residents, but to our outside community as well. They rely on us to provide those meals.”
Roberts said that the challenges of the pandemic have not only impacted LBRM’s ability to acquire resources and donations, it has also caused an increased need within the community.
“We are seeing a more rapid increase in homelessness,” said Roberts. “We are seeing more and more people in different age brackets that wouldn’t normally be hit by homelessness, but because of COVID and the financial hardship, there has been an increase in that.”
In addition to the staff and volunteers, a number of St. Anthony students participated in the “Socks & Supper” drive, earning service hours while helping the community. Frankie Herrera is a senior at St. Anthony, and is also ASB vice president. She said that morale among the students has been down over the past eight months, but the time spent serving the community is inspiring to her and her classmates.
“Events like this, even during normal times, are so important to help other people,” Herrera said. “We never realize how good we have things until we see how challenging life can be for other people. Especially now, some people have been hit extremely hard financially by the pandemic, so doing things like this are more important now than they have been. Knowing we’re making a difference in people’s lives is not only important in the long run, it’s also helpful to boost our spirits. And to know that we’re doing something, instead of just living the same day every day.”
After all collections were tallied, Mascaro said that the food drive collected 45 turkeys, 10 hams, 1,750 pounds of canned foods, and 500 pairs of socks. McGuiness said that campus ministry also has plans for a Christmas toy drive in the weeks ahead, which will benefit Long Beach’s Precious Lamb Preschool.
For ways to assist the Long Beach Rescue Mission during the holiday season and beyond, visit their website at LBRM.org.