Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 4, 2008
Charity Action Team rides to the rescue
Unique parish project always has a volunteer to help those in need
By RAMON GONZALEZ
- photo supplied
Herman Stegehuis holds a young girl, one of many children who received backpacks full of school supplies from the Stegehuises during their recent trip to Costa Rica.
The Stegehuises started the organization with the blessing of the pastor and the parish council, which gave its approval on condition the team became affiliated with another parish program. The Knights of Columbus Council 4742 took the team under its wing and even gave it a small budget.
The Charity Action Team had what Herman calls a sluggish start. It got just 18 members even after speaking in front of the entire parish at each of the Masses. But perseverance paid off and within a year the organization had 85 members.
The team's unique approach - no meetings, no fundraising and no long-term projects - is what attracts people. Members can share as much or as little as they wish. More than 120 people are now available for volunteer work.
At the heart of it all is God's commandment to love your neighbour, said Herman. "And what does that mean? What does loving your neighbour translate into? You can do it on paper; you can talk about it.
"But in this particular case what we are trying to do is show our love for our neighbour through our actions. This is about loving your neighbour through your actions."
So far the team has done volunteer work for 10 organizations. It helped Habitat for Humanity build a house in August and another in November. When Youville Home built its new facility, team members helped move the residents to their new quarters.
They have also done small projects at the church, helped pack and deliver hampers for the Kinette Christmas Hamper campaign, given rides to church for seniors and currently plan to build a ramp for a person who has a handicapped daughter and can't afford to pay for a ramp. The St. Albert Knights will provide the funds.
Crucial to the team's operation is Annette Stegehuis who contacts volunteers when there is a job to be done. The other day she spent four hours on the phone to find three people to go and serve supper at the Mustard Seed.
"Most people don't know who I am and I don't know what they look like either," she smiled. "But I get a lot of satisfaction at seeing a job done successfully. That makes me feel successful. My talent is to get other people to help."
Anybody can be a member of the Charity Action Team, as long as they have a positive, friendly attitude and are ready to help others in need, Annette said. So far most members belong to St. Albert Parish and include people of all walks of life and occupations, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians and drivers.
Brian Wolbert, a sales rep with a coffee company, and his wife Nicola signed up with the team a year ago. "I think it is everyone's responsibility to help out people that need assistance. If we all participated and we all helped out, the world would be a better place," Brian said.
The Wolberts have assisted in a variety of small projects - from driving seniors to serving Christmas dinner to the needy at the Mustard Seed.
Driven by their desire to serve, the Stegehuises took their three children to the poverty-stricken town of Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica from Dec. 22 to Jan. 10 so they could see how others live.
The Charity Action Team did not officially sanction the trip, but several organizations chipped in to pay for sports and school supplies for four area schools.
The whole family volunteered in the schools, some of which don't even have desks for the students. Annette taught arts and crafts and hand sewed 15 puppets for the students.
"I learned that even though they don't have everything they need, people (in Puerto Viejo) are happy and always ready to help others who have even less," said Annette's daughter Emily Stegehuis, 15. "They have no hot water. I feel for them."
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