Celebrating St. Patrick, helping St. Joseph’s

South County residents enjoy a St. Patrick's Day dinner to

There are many moving stories about how St. Joseph’s Family
Center in Gilroy has helped families in danger of becoming
homeless. The story of a client named Brian is one of the most
inspiring. He was a family man seeking employment, but none of the
90 job applications he filled out led to anything. He was educated,
had more than 20 years experience in his chosen field and had held
multiple positions as a manager or supervisor.
There are many moving stories about how St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy has helped families in danger of becoming homeless. The story of a client named Brian is one of the most inspiring. He was a family man seeking employment, but none of the 90 job applications he filled out led to anything. He was educated, had more than 20 years experience in his chosen field and had held multiple positions as a manager or supervisor.

Out of work, he and his wife and two daughters had exhausted their savings and were down to having no food, no money and nowhere to turn. I will refer to Brian only by his first name here because of the stigma often felt by those in our society who seek help and the way they are looked down upon.

“I had heard about St. Joseph’s Family Center and some of the services they provided, but I was skeptical,” he said. “Despair finally took over my pride and I called. I spoke with their Employment Services Coordinator. He immediately greeted me with the utmost respect and concern.”

The coordinator listened to Brian’s needs, and together they typed up a new resume that highlighted his potential, set up an email account to use in his job search and gave him bus tokens to travel to job interviews.

“This was the turning point for me to get back on my feet,” Brian said.

Since he was having no luck with gaining employment from others, St. Joseph’s helped Brian take an entrepreneurial approach and start a hauling service. They helped with insurance and repairs on his old truck, helped with business cards, advertising in the local paper and gas vouchers to stretch his income.

“I started to feel better about myself and stayed focused on doing the right things, making good choices and trusting in God for the outcomes,” Brian said. “I was able to take on a part-time position as a driver for a local construction company. The construction company started to give me more and more responsibilities, recognizing that I had more skills than just driving.”

By his first anniversary with the company, Brian was a Production Manager with a salaried position and benefits.

It takes the participation of the community at large to make success stories like Brian’s possible. The St. Patrick’s Dinner held last Saturday evening is a great example of the way our community comes together to support the work of St. Joseph’s Family Center, whose beginnings go back 47 years.

Retired school teacher Eunice Coates drove from Morgan Hill to attend the event held in the gymnasium at St. Mary School. She doesn’t like going out at night anymore, but for this event she makes an exception.

“I’ll come as long as I’m able,” she said.

That’s how strongly she feels about supporting the corned beef and cabbage dinner that is St. Joseph’s largest annual fundraiser.

She is one of the many faithful who have attended for more years than they can count, and it’s the ongoing support of people like her that makes such a difference for homeless, low income and at-risk families in Gilroy.

The St. Patrick’s Dinner started in the 1960s in the family room and kitchen of Laurel and Vince Mahoney. The young couple who, along with former City Manager Fred Wood and his wife Virginia, joined together to hold a small St. Patrick’s dinner for friends.

Eventually the dinners grew so large that they had to be moved to Peralta’s Busy Bee – now known as the Longhouse Restaurant – on Monterey Street. When the dinner outgrew the Busy Bee, it moved to the St. Mary gym. Stories are still told of how Sister Philippa, principal of St. Mary School, would get up on the stage and dance an Irish jig. After dinner, all the tables were pushed back to leave room for dancing to the live band, which went on long into the night. And tickets to the event back then? They cost $4!

This year the dinner was still a bargain at $25, and what began as a simple dinner idea in someone’s home more than 40 years ago has grown to be a citywide event. Many businesses, organizations, churches, former mayors, council members and volunteers donated and collaborated to make the night a success.

For people like Brian, the help they receive from St. Joseph’s is something they never forget.

“This would not have been possible if it weren’t for (St. Joseph’s),” he said. “Their sincere respect and constant follow-up during the most difficult time in my life was special. I was not just another number, not rushed in and out of their offices, but treated as an individual human being. I will always hold St. Joseph’s Family Center with high regard for all they have done for me and my family.”

To donate to or learn more about St. Joseph’s, go to stjosephsgilroy.org.

Below: Watch a video about St. Joseph’s Family Center’s collaboration with San Jose’s Second Harvest Food Bank.

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