A group of Ahwatukee moms brought some early Easter joy to children whose mothers or other caretakers struggle to provide.
The St. Gerard Circle at Corpus Christi Parish delivered Easter baskets March 23 to children at Frank Elementary School in Guadalupe, a five-mile hop from the church. Their Spy Wednesday visit — so named because of Judas’ bargain with the high priest — wasn’t a surprise. The women have been visiting during Holy Week for more than 10 years if not closer to 20.
Still the children were taken aback by the generosity. Baskets could have gone home with any of the 600 K-5 students, but were reserved for the neediest beginning with some of the school’s 140 kindergarteners and working their way up through the grades.
“Especially with it being Guadalupe, they feel really blessed to be receiving donations,” said Cecyll LoBue, president of the circle’s charitable efforts.
Some 27 percent of the town lives in poverty. An Arizona Republic article reported it as high as 31 percent last fall with just 300 feet separating “a meticulously manicured resort and golf course from the tiny town.” Guadalupe measures one square mile.
Members of the St. Gerard Circle look past such dichotomies and focus instead on human connection and unmet needs. The group is rooted in peer Catholic community, guided by the patron saint of mothers and filled with women who are spiritual moms — trying to conceive — to moms whose children are in college. Regular outreach efforts then support people just like them: mothers, children and families.
Although it was a few moms who made the delivery, it was a parish-wide collection of pre-assembled and originally-inspired Easter gift baskets. The moms often hear from donors that their children are grown and supporting the project brings back memories and creates new ones.
“They still want to participate in the Easter basket tradition, but for someone else’s child,” said Toni De Losa, vice president of St. Gerard Circle.
Donors stuffed 130 baskets with love while squeezing in toiletries, socks, outdoor activities, puzzles, art supplies and perhaps a little candy around it. At least one basket contained a lavender straw Easter hat to help a child dress for the occasion. Decorative cellophane and sometimes fancy bows held it all together.
“The parents cry. For them it’s like, ‘Someone loves us!’ They’re so overwhelmed with joy,” Blanco said.
Her resource center offers clothing, food and educational material for families free of charge. More importantly, Blanco extends compassion for an individual’s situation — such as an incarcerated parent or homelessness that might foster behavioral issues — and elevates understanding among everyone in a student’s personal network.
“I have seen so many people do so many positive things because of the love,” Blanco said.
Love is what brought Corpus Christi parishioners to Guadalupe to begin with. A local family took in Fr. Albert “Francis” Hoorman as their own right after he was ordained a priest. The now retired Corpus Christi pastor retained a special place in his heart for the town.
“He wanted our moms group to take care of them,” De Losa said. She recalled when the children left out their shoes for Three Kings Day and received $25 gift cards.
St. Gerard Circle has been asked to organize an underwear drive for children in the town and is discerning how to fulfill other unmet needs such as weekend lunch bags so the children can eat outside of school or perishable food items for the family.