By Rose Mary Saraiva

Volunteer Coordinator & Bereavement Services

Catholic Social Services of Fall River, Inc.

FALL RIVER — Catholic Social Services’ Gift of Giving program has been instrumental in helping thousands of individuals and families over the years. Through this on-going program, children have been provided with new toys at Christmas and families have received much needed donations of clothing, outerwear, and other basic needs items. 

This program, however, would not have the reach it has without the generosity of the community. Donations come in many forms and from every corner of our great diocese, including many from the private sector. Yet, the majority of the donations come from our parishes and the individuals in the pews — you the parishioners. 

In the past, this program collected specific items, that were placed on ornaments and hung on “giving trees” located at parishes throughout the diocese. These items were then collected and distributed to the families who had requested them. It was a program that worked well and provided for so many, especially at Christmas time. 

Alas, like so many things effected by COVID-19, Catholic Social Services had to revisit how the Gift of Giving program operated. After much deliberation and a conviction to ensure that those most in need would be provided for at Christmas, the Gift of Giving program took on a new life. The decision was made to provide each individual with a gift card. Families could use the cards to buy gifts for their children, new clothing, food and anything else they may need to brighten their holiday. A success for Christmas in 2020 and an easy decision for Christmas 2021. 

Word was sent to the parishes that Catholic Social Services would once again provide gift cards to those who reached out for help during the holidays. Through the efforts of the parishes that participated in this year’s program, we raised more than $24,000 in gift cards. This guaranteed that well over 450 individuals would be receiving a gift card to help with Christmas. 

In addition to the gift cards collected through our parishes, we also had businesses that chose to “sponsor” families in our programs. These organizations “adopted” families, providing them with clothing, household items, new toys, and even made certain that every member of the household had a gift to open at Christmas. 

Often we are asked, “Do the donations really make a difference? Do people really benefit from what we give?” What most of us do not see when we make a donation — big or small — is the impact it has on others. As someone who helped deliver your donations this year, I cannot begin to describe the gratitude and sense of relief these families feel. As I think back to the weeks before Christmas, to the careful selection of items requested, and the actual delivery, I am almost brought to tears as I type, their reactions and gratefulness has stayed with me. 

We are all very familiar with the “washing of the feet,” how Jesus knelt before each of those present in the upper room, and how humbled they were to have the “Master” take on the role of a servant; that humbling feeling is what I myself and the others who make the deliveries have felt. We are humbled by the those we serve and reminded of how truly blessed we are, that we are given the opportunity to make a difference. 

So do your donations make a difference? Yes, they most definitely do, and in the most profound and moving ways possible. Not only do your gifts benefit the recipients, but they have a major impact on those who see your donations in action. 

For your generosity and continued support of all we do here at Catholic Social Services, we thank you. May this be the year that you choose to be the difference.

Please note that at Catholic Social Services, the needs of many of those we serve extend well beyond the Christmas season. Please know that your kindness and generosity are greatly appreciated all year long, as the need for compassion, caring and understanding remains. If you, or someone you know, wants to make a donation at any time throughout the year, please call us at 508-678-4681 and we will let you know what items are needed at that time.