Many parishes within the Diocese of Phoenix assist the needy, but St. Anne has a ministry called Friends of the Needy which is unique and came into being in a unique way. In the mid-1980's, when the current site of our church was still a pecan grove, the pastor, Father Charles O'Hern was working to increase the parish building fund. One fund raising event “The Valentine's Day Dance" was an old tradition at St. Anne. Young women from the parish would raise money for the building fund, and the woman who raised the most money was crowned as Valentine's Day Queen at the dance.
In 1986, Miss Teri Hernandez raised $3,000 by holding yard sales, soliciting money from local businesses in the community, and organizing raffles. As Teri and her family held these yard sales near the old church site on Bruce Street, they grew increasingly familiar with the people in the downtown Gilbert area, many of whom were poor. The fundraising soon extended to buying diapers for the needy, as coordinated by Sister Beatrice McQuade and Barbara Hennessey. It became very apparent these people needed much more than diapers, so Teri's group continued having yard sales so they could buy food, diapers and help with utility bills for the less fortunate.
“That's how Friends of the Needy Ministry started and we expanded from there," says Merci Hernandez, Teri's mother and current Director of Friends of the Needy. “We just kept asking people within the parish to donate food and we started a little pantry in the old rectory on Bruce Street. While other parishes have their own St. Vincent de Paul ministry, we developed our Friends of the Needy ministry separately based on our available space and ability to help the community." The ministry was officially established in 1988, under the guidance of Father Raul Morales, the pastor of St. Anne from 1985 until 1992. Father Doug Lorig arrived as the new pastor in June 1992 and he gave the ministry his full support, allowing Friends of the Needy to collect money after Masses. That was when the need to hold raffles and yard sales slowed down and the ministry was able to concentrate on helping the needy using parishioner funds. St. Anne Friends of the Needy is funded primarily by St. Anne parishioners.
Since its modest beginnings, the Friends of the Needy ministry has grown into a vehicle that allows parishioners to help those less fortunate in our community who have difficulty making ends meet. Our staff assesses the needs of a family on a case by case basis, and helps them based upon the results of this assessment.
The services we provide include:
- Food. Volunteers put together food boxes for families or individuals. The size and contents of each box is determined by the client's needs as assessed by the Friends of the Needy volunteers.
- New or gently used clothing. Friends of the Needy has a thrift store stocked with new and gently used clothing. Clients can shop our store while waiting for their food boxes. Items are reasonably priced and clients pay what they can afford. If a client's unemployed, or cannot afford to pay we provide them with the essentials they need.
- Children's toys. We have a small collection of donated toys available in our store.
- Household items and small appliances. People donate small household appliances and items to us, and clients pay a minimal amount based upon what they can afford for an item. If a client cannot afford to pay we will give them the appliances they need.
- Large household appliances and furniture. We facilitate the exchange of larger household appliances and furniture donated to Friends of the Needy by connecting clients with donating parishioners. There's no charge for this service or any item donated to us in this category.
- Referrals. Friends of the Needy provides referrals to many other agencies in the community such as the Gilbert Community Action Program (CAP) or the Salvation Army.
- Assistance. Friends of the Needy provides clients with assistance in applying for governmental assistance programs such as food stamps or unemployment benefits. We've also helped several clients with applications when applying for low-income medical payment programs with the local hospitals.
- Utility bill assistance. Friends of the Needy helps clients pay for basic needs like water, gas and electricity.
- Rental assistance (suspended at this time). Previously, we provided rental assistance to our clients. We feel this is something we would like to continue to do, but at this time we don't have the funding to extend this help. If you'd like to provide some of this funding, please contact Merci Hernandez at (480) 507–4466, or send her an email (Click her Email button on the next page).
We assist people within our parish geographic boundaries as dictated by the Diocese of Phoenix. If someone from outside our area comes to us for assistance with food, we provide it for them one time and refer them to the proper parish for assistance. The exception to this rule is our Saturday food box service that is open every Saturday to anyone from surrounding communities.
Location and Contact Information:
Phone: (480) 507–4466
Address: 14 North Cottonwood Lane, Gilbert, Arizona 85234
Just a short distance from the main parish campus.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Food Wish List
Turkey, stuffing mixes, gravy mixes, instant mashed potatoes, canned corn, carrots, green beans, mixed vegetables, cream of mushroom soup, Durkee onions, black olives, cranberries, sweet and dill pickles, vegetable oil, canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, pie crusts or mixes, whipped cream, fresh eggs and cake or brownie mix. Don't have time to shop? Pick up a $5, $10 or $20 grocery store gift card and drop it by the St. Anne Annex for us!
Friends of the Needy Needs Your Help!
If you have a truck and can lift heavy objects we're looking for drivers to assist us with our outreach.