More than 100 high school students joined the Young Men’s Institute, the Knights of Columbus and local service groups to pack and distribute 400 boxes of food and toys for Christmas Dec. 14 in South San Francisco.
Fifteen-year-old Junipero Serra High School student Estevan Huerta volunteered with his dad Jaime for the second year. “I’m here helping out the needy and less fortunate,” he said. “It’s nice to see a lot of people coming out in the community to work together.”
Said All Souls parishioner Jaime Huerta, a YMI member for six years, who helps deliver food to families:
“As a parent seeing all these kids out here is important because we are teaching our kids that you have to give back. Delivering the boxes is very rewarding. When you knock and they open the door, the faces on the kids they’re so excited, they’re so happy.”
Founded in San Francisco in 1883, the Young Men’s Institute is a Catholic fraternal organization with 30 councils in three states. The YMI took over sponsorship of the food-basket program in 1981 and later named the program in honor of the food-basket co-founder and former YMI president Louis P. Guaraldi after his death in 1992. The Kiwanis Club of South San Francisco; the South San Francisco Host Lions Club and various Knights of Columbus councils among other community organizations join with the Catholic service group each year for the community effort.
Another father-son team helping was Nenar Nicolas and son Elijah. Nenar, a parishioner at Mater Dolorosa in South San Francisco, has been helping with the holiday donation drive for more than 20 years; his son for 10 years. “We need to take care of all our brothers,” he said. “If we see we can help, even in a small way we help.”
The granddaughter of the food bank co-founder, Ashley Guaraldi, 24, was volunteering for the holiday food drive for the first time. “It means a lot to help out the community and my grandfather started this and I wanted to help continue on his legacy,” she said.
The names of families that need assistance are given to YMI by local parishes, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County and the Salvation Army.
This year the group filled more boxes at 400, compared to 350 in 2012 and 2011, but nevertheless more than 100 families whose names were submitted could not be helped, said Ron Guaraldi, son of co-founder Louis P. Guaraldi. “If we would have known two months ago we may have been able to better fill the need,” Ron Guaraldi said. “Putting this event together is one thing, but eliminating 125 names, that’s the toughest job of all.”
The boxes contain enough food for two weeks and include perishable and nonperishable items. The event takes months to organize but the boxes are assembled and delivered all in the same day.
Appealing for help for the program next year, Guaraldi said, “The majority of people at the holiday time want to do something.”
To volunteer or get involved with the Young Men’s Institute call (650) 588-7762 or visit www.ymiusa.org/.
From December 20, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
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