EL CENTRO — This December, Our Lady of the Valley Parish once again will host its “annual give-back day to the most in need.”
Called “Embrace,” the event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Embrace is organized by the parish’s homeless ministry, in partnership with Catholic Charities. It will be held at two sites this year, with struggling families directed to the parish center at St. Mary’s Church and homeless individuals to Catholic Charities’ nearby day center.
Father Mark Edney, the parish’s pastor, said he expects that about 1,000 people will turn out for this year’s event, which will include a sit-down meal at both locations.
The homeless also can receive free haircuts, provided by local barbers, and take showers and change their clothes at the day center. Each will receive fast-food gift cards.
Father Edney said that there are often many gift cards left over, which are distributed during the weeks before Christmas.
Struggling families also will enjoy a sit-down meal and receive gifts, including gift cards, turkeys for Christmas dinner, and toys for the children at St. Mary’s Parish Center.
“We give away everything that’s given to us,” Father Edney said.
The Christmas trees used to decorate the parish center for Embrace are no exception. They, too, are given away to families before the event’s conclusion.
Father Edney said that it is primarily through the donations of Our Lady of the Valley that the various gifts are made possible, but Catholics from other parishes and even non-Catholics also have contributed to the event.
“In the past, the people have been very generous (with their donations),” he said, explaining that this means that children sometimes can be given three or four toys, not just one.
“We don’t save anything back,” he said. “Whatever we have, we give.”
Donations to Our Lady of the Valley Parish can be earmarked for “Embrace.” For more information, contact St. Mary Parish at (760) 352-4211.