BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The difference that The Tablet’s Bright Christmas Fund makes is evident at Providence House, a shelter in Bedford-Stuyvesant for homeless women and children and for women on parole from prison.
Last year, Providence House — which is run by the Sisters of St. Joseph — received a $5,000 grant from the fund, and Sister Marie Lenihan, C.S.J., explained what a big impact that money has.
“We can’t always give things to the women in our budget, but we need extra monies to provide them with toiletries and slippers and the necessities of life,” Sister Marie said. “And around Christmas time, it’s really exciting, because we have this big tree, and they help decorate the tree. And for some of them, this is the first Christmas that they’ve ever participated in,” she said.
“It gives birthday presents, it does Christmas presents, it does therapy, it does games. It does all these things,” Sister Marie said. They are activities and experiences that make a difference in the rehabilitation of women, especially who have undergone difficult and traumatic experiences.
Sister Marie lives in the shelter along with the women and children as do other Sisters of St. Joseph. They operate eight houses, including six in Brooklyn.
The sisters also help the women get job training and schooling. The goal is to help at-risk women become independent. Sister Marie cited a recent success story.
“A woman came back the other day,” Sister Marie recalled. “She lived with us from the time she was 18. She gave me a big hug, and she said, ‘I’m married. I have an apartment. I have a job, and I’m going back to school.’
“This makes it all worthwhile, when someone has that kind of conversion experience, and you see the difference, but it happens in little steps.”
That’s the kind of success the Bright Christmas Fund helps make possible. Deacon Don Zirkle, former editor of The Tablet, began the fund in the 1960s when there was a booming movement to help children living in the inner city.
At the beginning, the fund consisted of a few thousand dollars in donations, which was distributed throughout parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn so that children could partake in Christmas celebrations, regardless of whether their families could afford one.
While some of the funding still goes directly toward Christmas gifts as in years past, to purchase food, educational materials or basic necessities.
Over time, the generosity of the Brooklyn Diocese has multiplied: Last year, the Bright Christmas Fund collected about $100,000.
“You can make a difference in someone else’s life,” Sister Marie said.
For the first time in the history of the fund, you can donate to the campaign online by going to thetablet.org. Or you can contribute the old-fashioned way by writing a check to “The Tablet’s Bright Christmas Fund” and mailing it to:
c/o of Jorge I. Dominguez-Lopez
1712 10th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11215.