Longtime St. Catherine Parish member Anna Quinones and Maria Dominguez, the church’s office manager, led the preparation, organization and distribution of Thanksgiving meal baskets for families in need on Nov. 18. Photo: Michael Moore

While Thanksgiving is often celebrated as an opportunity to enjoy abundance and fortune, it is also a time when the hardships that many families struggle with throughout the year become even more pronounced. 

This past weekend, volunteers and members of St. Catherine Parish on Peak Avenue helped to bring some relief to the holiday struggle by filling and distributing Thanksgiving meal baskets for families in need. With the help of generous donations, dozens of volunteer hours and a partnership with the next-door St. Catherine School, the church was easily able to meet its goal of 100 baskets for this week’s Thanksgiving, said program leader and longtime St. Catherine Parish member Anna Quinones.

On Nov. 18, Quinones was joined by other parishioners and their families—including some students from the adjacent school—to collect donated items and sort them into the baskets inside a hall at St. Catherine School. 

The goal was to create a basket that contains “all the staple items” for an entire Thanksgiving meal for each eligible family: potatoes, rice, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, dinner rolls, pie and more, Quinones explained. Each basket also contained a grocery gift card so each family could purchase a turkey for their Thanksgiving table. 

Throughout the day, while volunteers were sorting the baskets, a stream of donors stopped by the school to drop off fresh grocery items that they had previously signed up to give. 

With the baskets full and organized by Saturday evening, more than 100 families were scheduled to stop by throughout the day Sunday to pick up their Thanksgiving meal supplies. 

Quinones said for the annual giving program, St. Catherine members and staff before the holiday identify specific families who are struggling financially to receive the baskets. Most are members of St. Catherine Parish, and all live within the South County region that the church serves. 

The church enlists the school to collect donated items, with each class taking on a specific item. For this year’s drive, the school collected enough supplies to fill 20 Thanksgiving family meal baskets, Quinones said. 

St. Catherine’s Thanksgiving basket program started in 2021, as an indirect result of the pandemic. With the church unable to host its annual on-site charity hot meal for Thanksgiving due to restrictions on public gatherings, they decided to collect and compile food baskets for families to take home, Quinones explained. 

Local student and volunteer Anna Conca helps organize donated items and pack Thanksgiving dinner baskets for families in need at St. Catherine Parish Nov. 18. Photo: Michael Moore

Also since 2021, more families have requested food assistance through another longtime charitable tradition at St. Catherine—the Christmas-time Parish Giving Tree. That program traditionally focuses on providing presents such as toys and clothes for needy families to have under their Christmas tree, but the need for food seems to be on the rise. 

“It’s the hardest time of the year for families, but we have a very generous community,” Quinones said. 

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley—the nonprofit food bank that supplies needy families and pantries with food in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties—is currently serving 500,000 families per month. That number far surpasses pre-pandemic levels, as costs that skyrocketed for basic needs have not fallen back to affordable levels for a large segment of the population, according to Second Harvest’s website. 

“We help families that are struggling day to day,” Quinones said of St. Catherine’s programs. 

The church on Peak Avenue is also the regular site of the Reachout Food Pantry, which distributes groceries to hundreds of families in Morgan Hill every week. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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