The Homeless Outreach Project, a quarterly service program sponsored by the Peace and Justice Coalition, took place on Friday, Oct. 11. Led by theology teacher Thomas Portman and his wife, Theresa, a teacher at Notre Dame Academy, the service project gathered Loyola and Notre Dame Academy students for an evening of creating, packaging and distributing roughly 150 meals to local homeless individuals.
Portman said, “Our approach to being with the homeless as members of the Peace and Justice Coalition is not to wallow in the despair of how bad things are but rather to focus on the excitement of being part of the solution to homelessness.”
Moderated by Portman, the Peace and Justice Coalition is a club in partnership with Notre Dame Academy students that seeks to serve underprivileged communities.
Portman said, “Although Notre Dame has their own justice organization, here at Loyola, part of this meaningful act is to work with others from different communities while stressing values like service with joy.”
The project began at around 2 p.m. as students of NDA were arriving on campus and was followed by a small prayer to prepare for the rest of the day. With the assistance of Portman and his wife, the team of students packaged approximately 150 meals of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, cookies and water. Following the packaging, the moderators, as well as some parents of students, drove the participants to Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church to distribute the food.
Portman said, “This year, we were fortunate enough to have an extra helping hand. Because the football game was cancelled, several members of the Mighty Roar and the Pride Club were available to assist with the preparations.”
Often referred to as “La Placita Church,” Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church supplies a food pantry on weekdays for locally displaced persons.
Portman said, “La Placita Church provides feeding services on Thursdays and Fridays, but not on Saturdays and Sundays, so the Peace and Justice Coalition tries to help them out with some dinner.”
After a brief prayer, the students and several parish workers lined up to distribute the meals. Students were also given the opportunity to converse with the homeless people as they shared their struggles.
Senior Oscar Garcia said, “I really enjoyed serving so many people in just one afternoon. It was also really fun to meet other students and and spend the night serving the community with them.”
Following the distribution of food, Loyola students socialized and ate dinner with the girls from Notre Dame Academy before returning to Loyola’s campus.
In his reflections with the group following the dinner, Portman discussed the principles emphasized in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
Portman said, “If we really believe all that is said in Matthew 25 of our scripture, the only conclusion is that we are called to treat our brothers and sisters with reverence, respect, dignity and honor because God is always present with them.”
The service project concluded at 9 p.m.
Community Service Director Jesse Rodriguez said, “If some of the theology teachers would like to work with organizations in terms of doing a presentation or providing service, we like to provide them with resources to involve the students with whatever activity they would like to do.”