COVID-19: Great Need For Partners in East Harris County

Father Christopher from St. Andrew Catholic Church in Channelview shares the great needs of east Harris County and how the community is coming together to help the under-resourced.

"Channelview Ministry Team is collaborating with the Houston Sheriff's Department and other agencies, recognizing it's not a standard and it's not a crime to be poor, to be destitute. And so we work together to do what we can to keep the whole community safe to serve these individuals."

Mentioned Resources:

St Andrew Catholic Church

St Andrew Facebook page

Channelview Ministry Team

Masks for All

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Tommy Rosson:

Hello, it's Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds and today I'm joined by Father Christopher. He is the head of, St Andrew Catholic Church in Channelview and a very well respected person in that community. Father Christopher, thank you for joining us today.

Father Christopher:

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

Tommy Rosson:

Tell me a little bit about what it has been like in your church, in your community with the COVID-19.

Father Christopher:

I think the same as in most places I would imagine the same. It's not like at first everyone's kind of a blind and deaf. People are living in darkness not knowing how to connect, et cetera. And so people were just immediately distanced from everyone else during the original quarantine phase. And so it's been difficult from all perspectives. We don't know who, who needs us to be reached out to, if they're not calling. We've always had someone manning our phone calls here or at our phone phones here in the office. I've always been talking to people on the telephone and called to talk. I've been meeting with people outside. We started live streaming our daily mass every morning. I started blasting our mass every morning on our Facebook page. And then that's how we've been using to communicate with our community as much as possible on the social network and our website knowing that many of our families in this area. And so we've been doing the best we can between flyers and information on our doors and telephone systems.

Tommy Rosson:

You're telling me about a couple of the ways that your congregation is stayed connected? I think one of them is a very creative way. The colored ribbons in the tree that you're using. Tell me about that.

Father Christopher:

Yes, we had, after my morning mass be bilingual on Sunday mornings, I know there's a need for the community and people are driving around with the cars on Sundays anyway, going to the grocery stores. So I started inviting them to come by the church and I was blessing them and their families as they came by. Just drive by. I gave out palms on Palm Sundays for Sunday. I gave out blessings. We had an opportunity for our offertory basket there for those who wanted to drop them outside the window. But one of the things we were aware that at Christmas we invite our families to bring an ornament. We have a big Christmas tree in front of our narthex and we ask them to bring an ornament representing their families to represent our family community, our family perish Christmas. The same idea came to me through our, actually our director of religious education, found where people were invited to bring colorful ribbons from Christmas or whatever and with the family's name on it or decorated as the family wanted to and put it on a tree outside of the church.

Kinda like an Easter tree in that sense. And so we've been, we posted that on our social media. We've been promoting that on flyers and people, word of mouth has spread in their communities. And so we have a tree here that was full of all kind of beautiful, colorful, a lot of pastels, but a lot of very artistic ribbons that the families had a project to put together. They represented their family and it gets people another motive to drive down and look at the tree and see where their ribbon is that's on the tree. But it makes them feel like they belong to our community. Stuff, that we're all in this together. That even though they may not have been coming into the doors of the church, this church still is theirs, that they still are, a part of them is still here at all times. And that's been a bridge that has helped us a lot with our community as well.

Tommy Rosson:

I love that idea of keeping that community there even though you can't gather like you're used to. Tell me a little bit about what the impact has been in your community and through some of the nonprofits that you support.

Father Christopher:

One of the ways that we've reached out in social outreach in our community, we've had a very long tradition way over 20 years, well over 25 years that I know of for sure, is St Vincent DePaul, which is an international habit organization, their own 501c3, that helps people of the community, not by religion, but simply by zip code or by areas that they serve. We usually try and that during the normal year, the rest of the year, we try to help a possibility if we had the funds, like bills, electric utility bills, grants, but at least trying to give him a bag of groceries, dry goods, et cetera. We do buy that normally from the food bank or collaborate with the food bank as well as our local food drives here and take up a monthly collection to help support that.

And throughout the normal average would be about 55 families a week that we were helping. Since the pandemic broke down, that number has exponentially grown. Every week. Once there's a major crisis and once there is a pandemic or hurricane or anything happens in tragedy, the food bank pretty much takes their normal locations that they sell or they cooperate with, and get, start sending free donations just to help distribute the food that was from the food bank. And so we became a distribution site almost immediately with the East Houston food bank system and then so we were able to help more and more families that were coming here. The issue we had was that as many people have heard, at least six weeks ago, a month ago, it was very difficult to get dry goods from the food bank.

You never knew what you were going to get, but we were getting a lot of frozen goods. We're getting a lot of fresh market stuff, but you know, you can only feed up a family, a whole pallet or a big tray of cherry tomatoes is not going to support them for the whole, of all their nutritional needs for the week. And so we had a food drive here in our parish, on social media and promoting them on word of mouth. And we had a successful one, but in the very next Tuesday, after that Sunday, we had 72 families that showed up. And they almost cleaned out what we had in our food pantry, as well as what was coming from the food bank. So, in discussing with, cooperate a lot with Houston Responds through our ministry alliance here that we have, Channelview Ministry Team would call it.

And so I was talking to someone else was asking me about it and with Houston Responds and I was explaining the situation about the masks, wanting to participate in that but also about the food issue we're helping and the having difficulty with the dry goods. And long story short, we were connected with the food drive that is going on through Mattress Mack and Gallery Furniture with their partnership with other agencies, including Kroger. And when they found out that we were in need here, that we were a distribution site on the East side, they sent over a whole truckload of 24 pallets and we were ecstatic to get that, to help offset what we were already getting from the Food Bank on the other fresh vegetables. And then the following day they called and asked if we can take another truck load.

And so we definitely took it. Thank goodness. Right now we have a Big Family Life Center that is closed. We have no Sunday masses going on there, no events going on in there. So that was a perfect place for staging. And we posted online and we had volunteers came carefully, distance, masks, the whole nine yards and they helped us sort all of those goods and we stocked our pantries. And so we've been using that last three weeks to supplement what we're getting from the food bank. And so every fam