Needed: Lenten Almsgiving Alternatives

In many places it’s a tradition by now to save one’s pocket change for Operation Rice Bowl, a program run by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). However, CRS unfortunately continues to make bad decisions about how it will use its funding, so I would not want my parishes to participate in their program.

A friend suggested participating instead in a program run by the Holy Childhood Association of the Pontifical Mission Societies. However, not only are their materials very difficult to get (there is a maze of verbiage-laden web sites and no clear ordering page — from what I’ve been able to find), but I am also not convinced that a sufficient portion of my donation would actually be going to the poor. My impression, from another fundraising effort that they run each year, is that they operate with huge amounts of overhead.

Is anyone aware of another program that has an incremental approach (such as saving pocket change in a bucket or box or something) and supports those in need beyond our communities, states, and nation? There are, of course, many fine charities that we can donate to locally, but it is good for us also to think of needs abroad as well. If anyone can recommend any good programs, I would appreciate it.

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14 Responses to Needed: Lenten Almsgiving Alternatives

  1. Jenna says:

    Mary’s Meals is a great charity: $20.00 given to them can feed a child for a year, and $0.97 of every dollar donated to them goes directly to feeding those in need.

  2. Coletta Schmidt says:

    The Holy Spirit Catholic Church Haiti Mission is currently fund raising funds to help 10 destitute families in our mission area. The goal is $500 per family that have been carefully screened by our committee. Every penny donated goes directly to the families – no overhead. The Committee is overseen by a Steering committee in the parish with final approval of Fr Mac Mahon is very well directed by Bob McCoy. This would be a very worthy project for St Barnabas’ charity effort. Thank you for your consideration.

  3. Judy Manlove says:

    Since you asked about possibilities beyond our borders…. consider the Holy Spirit Haiti Mission. Holy Spirit Church in Huntsville has partnered with a Catholic parish in Haiti and over the past decade has supported the building and sustaining of an orphanage (Notre Dame de la Charite), a clinic, a school, and numerous projects for good clean water. All of the money donated goes to help the people there, with no administrative expenses taken out. All of our people pay their own way when they go, and they personally oversee that funds are spent appropriately. I am not the best person to write about this as my involvement is limited to donations and sponsoring one of the orphans each year, but I am pasting a year-end letter from Bob that tells more about this project:
    (By the way, Bob and his team leaveThursday, Feb. 5, for their next mission trip, so we can all support their work there with our prayers. We also have a Holy Spirit young woman who is currently donating a year of her life to teaching and helping out at the school and orphanage.)

    Dear parishioner,
    The Holy Spirit Haiti Mission could not have accomplished what it has without the incredible generosity of many people and organizations during 2014. We have accomplished a great deal this year and continue to set the example of rebuilding the community while maintaining reasonable accountability. We try wherever possible to build the Haitian economy by purchasing goods and services locally. Following, I have listed a few of the things our mission has accomplished this year on behalf of your very generous gifts.
    In February a team of 7 went to Haiti to be a part of the dedication ceremony of the new Notre Dame de la Charite (NDC) building in Leogane. A two year project funded largely through Holy Spirit.
    This team installed a water purification system for the orphanage, our 20th system.
    Set up a library of young people’s books and a modified card catalog system for tracking the books.
    Continued to work on the English as a second language program (ESL).
    Installed a pump in the well at NDC.
    Installed a pump at the new well at Palmiste au Vin monastery that runs 400’ up the side of the mountain.
    Installed statues of Mary and Joseph and a large cross in the NDC chapel and a beautiful bronze statue of Mary outside the entrance to NDC.
    A team of 6 went in June to build and install a fire escape at NDC on the east end of the building. The structure was designed by a engineering student at U. of Pittsburg who took great pride in the accomplishment since this was her first building project.
    Haiti was in the middle of a Chickimuga epidemic (mosquito borne disease) so we brought in lots of medicine and prevention methodology. Several of the people were sick including some of the girls at NDC, but fortunately the medicine worked.
    We installed mosquito netting on the windows and doors of the orphanage and sprayed them to help abate the problem, which it did.
    Continued the work in ESL program, but shifted from teaching the kids to teachers. Through Bertone’s assistance we were able to establish a good book that the Haitians like and is available locally.
    We are now funding 4 adults associated with the NDC school per quarter in a local learning English class. On our Nov trip I was very impressed by how much one of the teachers has learned in such a short period.
    Installed a stained glass window of Mary and the Child Jesus in the chapel.
    Spent a day with farmers in the Café Lompre area to investigate the possibility of growing Menseiul seeds for bio-diesel. Unfortunately through later evaluation it was not an economically feasible project.
    Purchased our own vehicle, a 2002 Land Cruiser
    Installed a solar system of 4KW of power in NDC sufficient to run all lights, well pump, water purification and refrigeration with room for growth.
    Participated in the baptism of 18 girls at NDC
    Did a variety of water inspections during each trip
    Dug a well at St. Michael du Sud and two at the Palmiste au Vin monastery
    Put barbed wire around the top of the wall at NDC
    Fabricated and installed a roof rack for the Land Cruiser (would have cost $1000 in Haiti and we made and installed it for $250 thanks to some good cumshaw bargaining).
    Spent a day with 10 destitute families in the mountains of Café Lompre. These families have 34 children among them and all they asked for is help with their children’s education. It is going to take about $12K more to fulfil this effort at $500 per year per student. We have provided $3K so far. If you can help further, please let me know.
    Got a Ford F150 donated to NDC which will allow Eliane even more independence for getting kids to school and the hospital when necessary.
    Taught the girls at NDC crocheting and introduced more sewing projects. Many of them are very smart and catch on quickly.
    Inventoried the LWW warehouse at Palmiste au Vin
    Continued in country advanced training on the mechanics of the water purification systems and business planning.
    Implemented our first missionary into Haiti to teach English. See her blog at
    Continue working with All Blessings International for adoption of kids from NDC.
    Provide funds for Dr. Blaise salary at St. Charles clinic.
    Provide education, clothing and lunch money for one year for over 50 children at NDC
    Provide gifts and food for the orphans so they could have a special Christmas
    Provide salaries for teachers at Palmiste au Vin School
    Provide food and medicine for two special needs children one with HIV and one with epileptic seizures.
    Full trip reports and other information can be seen about the Holy Spirit Haiti mission by going to our website at .

  4. Renee G says:

    Thanks for the heads up about CRS. I think I have an envelope from them that was waiting for a check…. it will be going in recycling until there is more clarity about the situation

  5. Sue says:

    Why does it appear that Americans have so little empathy for their own? It appears that we only feel generous and helpful if our money & supplies go out of the country to far away places such as Africa, China, etc.? Do we think that because the local poor are Americans that somehow they deserve to suffer in poverty because we believe that by virtue of someone being in America, there is no valid excuse to be poor? My personal opinion is that until our children are fed, housed and clothed….we shouldn’t work so hard feeding, housing and clothing those in far away lands. It’s obscene to me that in one of the richest countries in the world, we have children who go to bed cold and hungry, we have people living beneath interstate underpasses & we have young adults who can’t get a job, in part, because our educational system has churned out an entire generation of illiterates. There are many many neighborhoods in this country – even a few in this city – that are so crime ridden that they are akin to a war zone. Neighborhoods where mothers put their children UNDER their beds at night to keep stray bullets from killing them in their sleep. Guess my motto is “charity begins at home”. We can scatter our help all over the globe but all that does is water down the resources and at the end of the day, we really haven’t accomplished anything of substance. But that’s just me.

    • You make some good points. I think that, because we are so wealthy compared to the parts of the world that we often want to help (Africa, Asia, etc.), we do have an obligation to them also, since they can’t necessarily help themselves. But we should not neglect those under our nose. It needs to be both/and.

  6. Would Salesian Missions, or any of their individual programs,meet your requirement?

  7. Daniel says:

    May I suggest the Philippine Aid Society? It is run by a friend of mine based out of Charlotte, NC. I am on the board, and can guarantee that the overhead is minimal and that we help only people who are really poor, while being slavishly faithful to the magisterium.

  8. Suzi Ekberg says:

    The Council of Catholic Women in our parish and state are supporting Mary’s Meals this year. It is a program that feeds a child in Africa for approximately $17.80 a year. Our state CCW selects a charity outside the USA that we collect funds for all year. This charity is submitted to the Chancery and the Bishop, after research, gives approval for the project. A representative of the program is invited to our state convention & is presented with a check (usually between 10 and 20 thousand dollars). Another project we did was to Mary, Mother of God Mission in Vladivostock, Russia. They have an office in Modesto, CA. They operate crisis pregnancy centers and help with orphanages. They help the emerging Catholic church in that area. Concern about administrative costs is good; an effective charity has 4 or less percent in these costs.

  9. The Knights of Columbus “Baby Bottle Campaign” collects your spare change in a bottle, the funds collected go to pregnancy centers right at home.

  10. Gloria JMJ says:

    Please consider The Living Rosary Association who supplies sacramentals to faraway lands.

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