Last week I wrote about the experience some of the staff of the Pastoral Center and I had last Tuesday night at Pinellas Hope. About fifty of our employees eschewed their own Christmas party and chose to spend the evening feeding and serving the homeless at Pinellas Hope instead. In that blog entry I mentioned that an anonymous person had pledged $100,000 if we could match it before the end of the year. It has been matched, and then some, and here are details of which I was not aware last week.
If Pinellas Hope is able to raise $1,000,000 of in-kind assistance (meals, food, service hours, etc. count in this category), $260,000 in donations, and $140,000 in donations for capital projects on the site, then the Pinellas County government will release $700,000 it has budgeted and is holding to support Pinellas Hope this year. Out in search for the $400,000 which Catholic Charities must provide, Sheila Lopez, the great lady of Pinellas Hope and Catholic Charities read an article which said that the wife of the financier and philanthropist Warren Buffet was willing to give to homeless projects throughout the country. So Sheila called Mrs. Buffett and amazingly reached her. After explaining Pinellas Hope to Mrs. Buffett, she agreed to give $100,000 if it was matched by December 31, 2008. That’s all Sheila Lopez needed to hear. They have now exceeded the $100,000 needed for the match. Two very generous members of the diocesan family have given me checks in the amount of $5,000 for Pinellas Hope in the last two weeks and today I accepted a check from the Sun Bank Foundation for $35,000. The donations continue to come in what I believe to be a simply amazing response to a great human need which our diocesan Church through Catholic Charities and its partners are meeting in an innovative and successful manner.
No one who has ever visited Pinellas Hope has left with anything less than profound admiration and pride for what is being done there. Tomorrow night I join the remaining thirty-five of my fellow staff members of the Pastoral Center in serving the last of the two meals which substitute for our Office Christmas Dinner/Party. On Christmas eve, Father Bob Morris will celebrate a Vigil Mass for Christmas at 6:30pm at Pinellas Hope and at that time the statue of the infant Jesus will be placed in a manger which sits in a tent just like those occupied by the 285 present residents. All this is possible because “angels we have heard on high.”
There is also a small glimmer of hope from the county across the Bay that we may still be able to launch a “Hillsborough Cares” center. That would be simply amazing.