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Our Lady of Loretto Parish 2011-12 Chair Holli Lemos assisting with the Helping Hands Cake Walk at the parish’s Fall Festival 2010.

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Our Lady of Loretto’s Helping Hands group raises $20,000 for needy
January 12th, 2011
By Tom Burke

Helping Hands, however appropriate, seems a bit of an understatement as the name for a service group founded at Novato’s Our Lady of Loretto Parish 35 years ago. At Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, members raised more than $20,000 to benefit needy families with grocery and department store gift cards.

With a roster of more than 250 members, Helping Hands began as a welcoming committee for new parishioners and to assist fellow parishioners in times of need, according to Mary Alice Musante, a member for 25 years.

“I have experienced both the generosity of our members who have donated their time and talent and the tremendous thankfulness of those who have been recipients of their efforts,” Musante told Catholic San Francisco.

The Helping Hands tale is a story Musante is happy and proud to tell.

Members currently assist with the Comforting Meals program, which provides food for funeral receptions or for those experiencing poor health and the Easter Outreach bringing flowers to the sick and homebound as well as to those in assisted living and convalescent homes. Members also provide a breakfast reception after the Memorial Mass celebrated every year for families who have lost loved ones, and participate in a weekly prayer group to pray for parishioners’ special intentions.

“It has been enjoyable for me to work with such dedicated people and an honor to be a part of such a wonderful organization,” Musante said.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas Outreach programs were merged together for the first time this year and $20,350 was donated by parishioners and school families to ensure that 100 families in need received grocery and department store gift cards in time for Christmas.

“I have been involved in OLL Helping Hands since its inception over 35 years ago,” said co-chair Barbara Watson. In the early days of her membership, when her and husband Jack’s three children were growing up, Watson’s participation was providing home cooking for a funeral reception or sick parishioner’s family.

Upon retirement and with Nicole, Brad and Jack grown, Watson became more active and has served as Helping Hands co-chair for the past two years with Teresa Olson. Watson’s son, Jack, is married to Olson’s daughter Erin. Watson and Olson are assisted in leadership of the group by committee chairs who organize the various ministries for participation by the rest of the membership.

“The work has reinforced my feelings of community as an Our Lady of Loretto parishioner,” Watson said, an OLL parishioner herself for 43 years. “As a Catholic, I have been inspired by the spirit of the group.”


From January 14, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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