Sharing Christ’s abundant love with those in need

Santa, portrayed by volunteer Rick Heller, poses for a photo with a happy little boy and his new Teddy Bear. (Photo courtesy Shelli Lange/Seton Center)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Seton Center, founded by Sister Mathilde Comstock, D.C., in 1969, works to help people break cycles of poverty through social and dental services. Located at 23rd Street and Benton Blvd., its service area for food and clothing distribution, rent and utility assistance encompasses zip codes in the lowest income brackets of Kansas City. More than 25,000 people living at or below the poverty level call this service area home. The Ladies of Charity help support Seton Center both financially and through volunteering.

Each Christmas men, women and young people from parishes on both sides of the state line come together at Seton Center to bring Christmas joy to neighbors in need. The 2018 Christmas Sharing event was held Dec. 13, 14 and 17, at the center, and on Dec. 15, food boxes were delivered to 31 homebound individuals in the neighborhood.

More than 300 volunteers helped distribute food for holiday cooking and baking, a one-month’s supply of food; hygiene products; toys for children; clothes and coats; hats, gloves, and scarves; brand new undergarments and socks; and took families on a shopping trip through Seton’s Christmas Store. Shelli Lange, Seton Center’s Director of Mission Integration, said more than 1,300 individuals (almost 500 families) experienced the abundant love of Christ during the three-day event. “What a wonderful testament to our Catholic Solidarity,” she said. “We can only thrive when our entire community thrives. Coming together as One Church to serve one another — that is what Christmas is all about.”

Several long-time Missouri side volunteers, including Tom and Virginia Coppinger of Visitation Parish, and Bob Frazier of St. Thomas More Parish, both in Kansas City, spent a day or more serving those in need at the Sharing event. Others included Damian Garcia and Father Jerry Waris, both of whom are members of the Board of Trustees; Deacon Jim Koger of St. Patrick Parish, Kansas City; Norma Mauer; Ruth Noel; LaNora Hughes and Jana Allen. They hailed from Holy Spirit and St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Peter’s, as well as Visitation and St. Thomas More parishes.

Virginia Coppinger, a Lady of Charity, said she has volunteered at Seton Center for nearly 40 years. “My mother was a Lady of Charity and I followed in her footsteps,” she said. “In the weeks before the event, we interviewed families with children under the age of 16, asking them ‘what would your child like as a gift for Christmas?’” Soliciting donations, sorting and organizing the Christmas Store involves hundreds of volunteer hours, but the smiles the volunteers receive make it well worth the time. “The unwrapped gifts are placed in red bags, and parents can ‘shop’ for wrapping paper and bows at the Christmas Store.” Coppinger said Seton Center really is a one stop shop for those in need at Christmas. “Their faces light up when they realize there really will be something for Christmas for their children!” she said.

She recalled a young man in the coat line, who wanted a jacket. Coppinger’s husband Tom was volunteering at that station, and he dug deep in the piles of coats and jackets and found a Chief’s jacket. “The young man’s face just glowed, he was so thrilled! Then he heard an older man standing right behind him say, ‘You are so lucky! My grandson would love a jacket like that!’ The young man immediately took off the jacket and handed it to the older man, saying, ‘Here. You need it more than I do.’ He wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. People are good,” Coppinger said. And yes, Tom Coppinger found him another jacket.

St. Thomas More parishioner Bob Frazier, also a member of Seton Center’s Board of Trustees, has volunteered at the center for about 40 years also. He recalled that, “Over 95 percent of the coats donated were of good quality and clean. People not only gave, they showed they cared by how they gave.”
He added, “I think Seton is trying to help the people they serve break out of the poverty cycle. The dental clinic, the clothes boutique, the food pantry and the social services program are giving people the tools to have hope they can change their plight.

The Dental Clinic is another service available at Seton Center. Dental patients come from a 10-county area in both Missouri and Kansas. Costs are assessed on one of the lowest sliding fee scales in the area, based on income and the number of dependents. No one is turned away due to inability to pay for dental services.

Seton Center is celebrating 50 years of service to those in need in Missouri and Kansas. For more information about Seton Center — the food pantry, thrift store, elder services, dental services, rent and utility assistance (once monthly) — visit www.setonkc.org or call (816) 231-3955.

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Saturday
October 19, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph