Churches strive to help housing group
Cape Cod Times
There is a friendly but seldom-acknowledged rivalry between the congregations of two South Yarmouth churches.
And the beneficiaries are residents of the Cape who might otherwise end up homeless.
Each week after services at their respective churches, parishioners at St. Pius X Catholic Church and St. David's Episcopal Church, along with members of other churches across the Cape, can buy food certificates — plastic cards that look like your average store gift card. They can be used by purchasers to buy groceries at participating stores.
For every dollar spent on one of these food certificates, the Housing Assistance Corp. in Hyannis earns a 5 percent donation from the participating store.
"Bring it on!" said Debbie McDevitt Hayes of the competition between members of her church, St. David's, and members of St. Pius, which includes her friend David Akin.
"Whenever I get the chance, I tell Debbie that we are raising more money at our church than hers," said Akin, who like Hayes is a member of the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness.
"Did he tell you that his church is bigger than ours?" Hayes asked.
At the heart of this good-natured contest is the food certificate program that benefits the Housing Assistance Corp. Since the inception of the program in 1994, it has raised more than $1 million toward preventing homelessness on Cape Cod, according to Akin and Hayes.
Since January there have been 203,000 cards sold across the Mid-Cape, said aide Barbara Lussier. St. Pius X has sold 61,000 of the cards in that period while St. David's has sold 24,000 cards.
Lussier buys the food certificates in bulk for the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council and for the Barnstable Interfaith Council, both of which distribute them to churches and businesses for sale to the public.
"The concept is fairly simple," Lussier said. "It's like using your own credit card or ATM card. Or, you can think of it as buying a gift card for someone," Lussier said. "When my kids were in school I used to buy them and send them cards so they could buy groceries."
The food certificates can be used at a number of chain and Cape-based grocery stores. Shaw's, Stop & Shop and Roche Brothers participate, as do such local stores as Lambert's in Hyannis, Peterson's Market in Yarmouthport and the Dennis Public Market on Route 6A, just to name a few.
The complete list can be seen on the Housing Assistance Corp. website, www.haconcapecod.org/donate-now-community-fundraisers.htm .
Each card is purchased at face value and can be spent for the face value, Lussier said.
Card denominations start at $10 and go up to $100, she said.
Each week Lussier buys about $35,000 worth of certificates from participating stores and these are split between the two ecumenical councils. And Lussier admits she is not above instigating a little rivalry between the two councils or participating churches.
"I've been known to tell Our Lady of the Cape (Centerville) that St. Pius X is doing much better than them at selling certificates, then when I stop by South Yarmouth, I tell St. Pius X that Our Lady is way ahead," she said. "The cause is good, the little fib is forgivable, don't you think?"
To view the complete list of participating stores and locations where food certificates can be purchased, go to the Housing Assistance Corp. website, www.haconcapecod.org/donate-now-community-fundraisers.htm.