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Supporting Dorchester families on Christmas Eve

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Catholic Charities client Euriza said, "It is one of the best things that you can have before Christmas." She appreciates everything that Catholic Charities does for her, exclaiming "God bless everyone involved."

For the 28th year, Catholic Charities of Boston and the Thomas M. Menino Fund for Boston will support hundreds of local families through a joint Christmas Eve distribution event at Catholic Charities' Teen Center at St. Peter's, located in Dorchester's Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood.

Traditionally a toy distribution event, the event shifted focus last year due to pandemic restrictions and a growing community need for basic necessities. This year's event will follow a similar model, with an anticipated 300-500 local families receiving food, cleaning supplies, and other essential items.

"This neighborhood was hit hard by COVID-19, so we adapted to what the families we serve really need right now, and that is food and other basic household goods," stated Joao Dos Santos, director of the Teen Center at St. Peter's.

Catholic Charities' Teen Center serves as a safe haven for adolescents living in Dorchester's most troubled areas during after school hours and throughout the summer months. Through critical outreach efforts and extensive, well-structured programming, the Teen Center provides its members with the tools needed for academic and personal growth, as well as their success in the community, including outreach to families to help obtain additional services that may be needed.

Many Teen Center families participate in the annual Christmas Eve distribution. Client Sabina shares, "For the past four years, my kids always remind me about it. It is a great support, especially during this time of the year."

Historically underserved communities across the state continue to feel the most significant impact from on-going challenges resulting from the pandemic. In the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood that houses the Teen Center, nearly one in four residents live below the poverty line, and the same ratio live just above it. Assistance with basic needs, including food for the holiday, is critical for the families participating in this year's event.

Catholic Charities client Euriza said, "It is one of the best things that you can have before Christmas." She appreciates everything that Catholic Charities does for her, exclaiming "God bless everyone involved."

From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, members of the Menino family, Catholic Charities CEO Kevin M. MacKenzie, and volunteers from the Menino Fund and Catholic Charities will distribute care packages outdoors at the Teen Center to pre-registered families. Donations from local businesses and individual supporters enable both organizations to make up the care packages.

In a Boston Globe article published last year about the Christmas Eve event at the Teen Center, late Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino's son, Tom Menino Jr., shared that the purpose of the event "was to come to an area he saw a lot of potential in and make the people feel like they are important and part of the city," speaking of his father's creation of the drive. The Menino Fund for Boston was established as a way to ensure that Mayor Menino's legacy would live on.

"We are proud of our longtime partnership with the Menino family and the Menino Fund for Boston and are extremely appreciative of their support at this annual event," said Dos Santos. "Seeing the joy and relief on families' faces when we are able to provide them with holiday assistance is just amazing, and we could not do it without the Menino family."

Client Adelina adds, "I would like this program to continue for many years. I like the idea of giving food, but to also make the kids happy I would like to see half food and toys for kids [in the future]. I tip my hat to all the organizations involved."

To learn more about Catholic Charities of Boston's programs and services, including the Teen Center at St. Peter's, please visit www.ccab.org.

JACQUELINE BATSON IS MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON.



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