The Franciscan Outreach Program began over sixty-five years ago at Duns Scotus Seminary in Southfield, where it distributed food, clothing and provided occasional help with rent and utility payments. It served, as it continues to do, Southeast Michigan, not just Southfield. The program is funded by donations, including significant donations by the Franciscan Order, and by parishioners.
When Duns Scotus was sold, the program was moved to St. Michael Church, where it was allowed use of space and utilities. The program discontinued the distribution of clothing due to the requirement of installing a sprinkler system, per the Southfield Fire Department. The program continued distributing food and assisting with rent and utility payments into the twenty-first century. At that time, the program was serving forty families monthly with food and eight families monthly with assistance for rent and utilities.
As the economy worsened, request for services increased drastically. In 2006, we were helping eight to ten families a week with an average of $150 for rent or utilities, and ten families a week with food baskets. In 2007, we discontinued assistance with rent payments, due to several instances of check fraud. At that time, we were getting over 100 calls weekly with requests for help with utility bills. The bills were usually from $600 to as much as $1,800 and we were only able to provide $150 per family, once per year. We came to believe that we were not really helping. We were receiving calls from all over Southeast Michigan. We were listed on web-sites, on the Detroit cable TV station and in fliers handed out at numerous churches. We could not support all the requests we were receiving. We decided we could only afford to concentrate on helping with food distribution. We agreed that we would help parishioners with utilities or rent, as they were referred by our Christian Service staff.
The Franciscan Outreach Program continued to operate, distributing food to the needy and occasionally assisting with financial aid for parishioners. We distribute a quality food package. Our packages include a forty pound bag of canned goods, concentrating on high protein items like peanut butter, tuna, beans and canned meats. Also included is a ten pound bag of frozen meat items and loaves of bread products. We currently are distributing food to over five hundred families monthly. We have recently teamed with St. Thomas Parish and added 80 families of Chaldean refugees, who they have sponsored, to our distribution network.
In addition, we are stocking up for our holiday programs. We distribute 300 Thanksgiving turkey dinners with the trimmings and send an additional 50 packages to St. Luke Parish in Detroit. At Christmas, we distribute 350 dinner packages with toys for 1,200 children and send 50 packages to St. Luke parish.