Volunteer Stories: St. James Parish

St. James Catholic Church in Liberty, MO, has a long-standing relationship with Hillcrest Hope. And today, with opportunities for involvement for all ages, the relationship has never been stronger.

That involvement is all about faith in action, explains Cecilia Richardson, Director of Religious Education. “Involvement in Hillcrest Hope is something kids can do to make a connection and make a difference right here at home. We believe it’s important to put your faith into action, and our kids are learning how to make a difference in the lives of people here in our community.”

Cecilia oversees Sunday morning and Wednesday evening religion classes, as well as preparation for baptism, first communion and reconciliation – so in her role, Cecilia focuses on children and families. The parish has sponsored an apartment for quite some time, Cecilia explains, and that’s a concrete way St. James families see the need in their community.

St. James Parish youth serve at Hillcrest Hope

“You want it to feel like home for the family living there. Our families can make a real connection as they refurbish the apartment, keep it spiffed up and make sure Hillcrest Hope families have everything they need.” Also in the works is a graduation party for those in the St. James apartment.

St. James places special focus on families helping other families with basic necessities. “Anytime we can make a connection between what these families need and what our families need, it works out well.” In that spirit, St. James hosted a medicine drive last fall, collecting items like cough drops and bandages. This month, the church is hosting a hygiene drive, gathering soaps, shampoos and more. Next month? It’s a food drive, designed specifically to restock pantry shelves after the holidays.

The Religious Education program hosts Soup Suppers during Lent each year to build church community and support a local charity, and Hillcrest Hope will be this year’s beneficiary. Families bring crock pots of soup to share, donating what they would have spent on dinner that evening. St. James invites the charity to speak as well. “It’s a way to make things really personal to these families,” Cecilia says.

Opportunities to engage with Hillcrest Hope abound for teenagers too. Bobbi Romain is the Director of Youth with St. James Parish. “We wanted a close relationship with an organization that could be the go-to place for teens needing and wanting to give back. Hillcrest Hope is that place, and it’s service they can really sink their teeth into. It’s much more than a one-time thing.”

One pathway for involvement is Service Saturdays. St. James teens can choose the Saturday that works for their schedule, volunteering either as a group or individually. Activities vary: teens have cleaned apartments, pitched in at the thrift store, stocked the food pantry and more.

“Hillcrest Hope is great for all ages,” Bobbie says. “Poverty is something all ages can and should understand. It’s here, it’s real and we can help. And when they volunteer, it’s so much more than just sorting clothes. These teens are learning why what Hillcrest does is important and needed.”

Part of Hillcrest Hope’s appeal is that it’s easy for anyone to get involved. But Bobbi recalls a particularly dedicated teen who volunteered daily after school until his departure for college. “Of all the things he could have chosen to do, he chose to volunteer and do this to help. It’s amazing seeing students gain that passion for service.”

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