Thursday, March 03, 2005

Westminster in the News!

From the Rosegarden Resident:
Westminster Church keeps its food drive going on a year-round basis
By Mary Gottschalk

Hunger isn't seasonal, which is the reason Mary Fatula and the congregation at Westminster Presbyterian Church collect food for Second Harvest Food Bank on a year-round basis.

On the first Sunday of each month, those attending services at the Shasta Avenue church are encouraged to bring food and place it on the steps in front of the Communion table.

"We try to make it such a huge pile of food that the elders can't make it up to serve Communion," Fatula jokes.

Donations have yet to prevent people from getting to Communion, but occasionally it is difficult to get to the table.

The efforts by Westminster members were recognized at a ceremony Feb. 16 where Fatula accepted Second Harvest's Community Champion Trophy for the highest total donation in the 250-and-less participants category.

The trophy, which is actually a plaque, honored the 3,496 pounds of food and $1,175 donated by Westminster members in 2004--food and money that goes to an average of 163,500 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties each month.

"Mary has been a champion for us getting food to Second Harvest," says Steve Norman, pastor of Westminster. "She writes up announcements every month to remind people."

Fatula's announcements go beyond simple announcements. Each month she makes a presentation, offering a theme for the month.

"I have some silly thing I say about it," she says.

For February she carried a large bowl to the Communion table and said, "When I think of Super Bowl, I think of soup."

She then asked congregants to bring cans of soup for Second Harvest in February.

In January, she suggested oatmeal and for March she says she's thinking green and asking for green vegetables in honor of St. Patrick.

Fatula doesn't want to limit donations to just one type of food, but says she finds making suggestions makes it easier for people to remember and participate.

She keeps a list of the foods most wanted and needed, which she's happy to share with anyone who asks.

At Christmas, she pretended to go through a long list of things to do and gifts to buy; then, she says, "I crumpled it up and said, 'Forget that list. I have the list of most needed foods.' "

She then urged the congregation to fill a grocery bag with items from the Second Harvest list.

Westminster's participation in the food drive is now in its fifth year, and Fatula has headed the effort from the start, watching donations rise each year.

In 2000 the congregation collected 601 pounds of food; in 2001 it was 2,811 and in 2003 it was 3,320.

Companies such as Cypress Semiconductor, Cisco Systems and Applied Materials dominate the annual recognition ceremony, although there is a category for schools and community groups.

"I look over who gets the special awards, and most times it's companies--a lot of really big companies that give huge amounts of food," Fatula says. "Most times, it was a holiday food drive. We are one of the few organizations that do it year-round, and it feels good."

When church services end, Fatula and others put the donated food into the barrels left for them by Second Harvest, which comes by once a month to pick up full barrels and leave empty ones.

Fatula says the church averages two to 21Ž2 barrels a month, but some months they collect enough to fill four barrels.

Fatula welcomes donations from the community at large and says they may be dropped off at the church during the day.

Westminster Presbyterian Church is located at 1100 Shasta Ave. at The Alameda. The church office telephone is 408.294.7447.

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