In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matt. 25:35-36)
The Helping Hands Ministry at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach has been doing just that for the past 20 years.
PHOTOS BY RENNE ENRIQUEZ/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
It was started by parishioner George Hess, Ph.D., an associate dean and professor of management at Loyola Marymount University’s College of Business Administration.
Helping Hands was established as part of Worknet, an outreach program he established at the parish. The original intent of the ministry was to help men find jobs.
Ken Allen and Lissa Callaghan were two of the early volunteers. Lissa went on to become its first director.
“After learning that many of these men were homeless and living in their cars, the decision was made to being a partner ministry to help these men find supportive services,” according to Dr. Patrick Lauder, M.D., current director of Helping Hands.
When Lauder offered to volunteer in 2008, the ministry was helping about 20 clients, or Pilgrims as they are called, per month. Over the next four years, that number grew to between 60 to 90 clients per month, with more volunteers coming on board.
“I was a full-time physician, but I knew this was my calling, so in 2011 I became director of Helping hands,” he said. “When I fully retired as a physician in 2012, we had one volunteer for every 2-3 hour shift each day.”
THE HELPING HANDS MINISTRY AT OUR LADY QUEEN OF ANGELS CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NEWPORT BEACH HAS BEEN ASSISTING CLIENTS IN NEED FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS.
Since then, the ministry continued to grow to about 300-350 clients per month.
They were forced to suspend operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the pandemic eased somewhat, we were able to reopen in July 2021 and have remained fully open ever since,” Lauder explained. Currently, a team of 36 volunteers work two-hour shifts. “Two of our volunteers are former homeless individuals who now have housing that we partially helped them with and are now paying it forward by volunteering to help others in difficult times.
Backpacks, sleeping bags, water, granola bars and toiletries are distributed.
“There are racks of clothing that they can examine and take, as needed,” he added. “Plus, we provide gift cards to all of our Pilgrims, such as gas cards for their cars, Target gift cards, food and bus passes.”
There is a program for mentally ill clients that works with Be Well OC, which is dedicated to addressing mental health challenges among the local homeless population, as well as residents and visitors who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Helping Hands shares resources from outside organizations or charities that assist with meals, shelter, free medical or dental care, free eye exams and glasses and even mobile phones.
The ministry also offers clients information on how to find jobs and works with City Net to set up appointments to arrange permanent supportive housing for those formerly homeless and disabled persons to live independently, or to find affordable housing.
“There is even a program that provides two to three nights at local hotels for those that are in great need and without shelter,” Lauder said. “We will occasionally provide special requests for utility bills, car registrations, storage fees, moving expenses, walkers for the handicapped and sometimes even a portion of rental expenses.”
Our Lady Queen of Angels pastor, Fr. Steve Sallot called the ministry an integral part of the parish.
“Our parish community is blessed to have the capacity to provide assistance, limited though it may be, to persons in need,” he said.
Fr. Sallot added: “The blessing for those who minister through Helping Hands is that they have the opportunity to response to the Gospel call of taking care of our brothers and sisters in need. It is not always easy to minister to those in desperate need, but they do so with love, care and compassion.”
The ministry is funded by donations from parishioners which have also donated clothes items, toiletries, warm weather coats, etc.
Helping Hands has also received grants from the City of Newport Beach and at least one federal grant through Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley.
The ministry is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the ministry office in the Our Lady Queen of Angels church building.
For more information, go to: https://www.olqa.org/community-outreach-programs or call Patrick Lauder at (949) 903-0849.