Red sox wives Yuka Okajima, Tiffany Ortiz and Bertha Lowell join Father Paul O'Brien at Fenway Park June 18 to spread the word about the Hit for Hunger and Labels are for Jars campaigns to support the Cor Unum Meal Center. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Cor Unum Meal Center
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BRAINTREE -- As the Boston Red Sox were preparing to welcome back former teammate Manny Ramirez and his Los Angeles Dodgers for a weekend series, some of their significant others were waiting tables and spreading the word about how a local Catholic organization feeds the hungry.
On June 16, four wives and one fiancee of Red Sox players -- Bertha Lowell, Yuka Okajima, Tiffany Ortiz, Stacy Wakefield, and Holly Fisher, the fiance of Josh Beckett -- served meals at the Cor Unum Meal Center in Lawrence, an organization that serves free meals to the hungry in restaurant fashion.
Two days later, those five women and other volunteers manned a booth at Fenway Park to raise awareness of Cor Unum's work and the ongoing Labels Are For Jars fundraiser as fans filed into Fenway to witness Ramirez' historic return.
Cor Unum is a ministry of St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence. The parish's pastor and co-founder of Cor Unum, Father Paul O'Brien, said that the organization only looks to inform the public with these types of events.
"Just getting the word out is the way we get money in," he said. "Our goal is never to raise anything. We don't do anything with specific financial targets. The goal is to get out the word about hunger and what people can do to fight hunger through Labels Are For Jars."
Father O'Brien said that Cor Unum and Labels Are For Jars were subjects of discussions by Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione during his game broadcast that night and a television interview by NESN, which also aired on June 18.
According to Cor Unum's website, over 33 percent of Lawrence's 82,000 residents live below the poverty line. Nearly 50 percent of children under 18 live below the poverty line, as does 27 percent of people over age 65.
Labels Are for Jars is one of the ways Cor Unum receives financial support to feed Lawrence's hungry.
Father O'Brien described the effort as "a cutting-edge effort to feed the hungry and shine the spotlight on the issue of societal labeling in the United States."
Labels Are for Jars is a clothing line of T-shirts and hats sold in a jar-shaped container that are imprinted with the program's logo and a term associated with a negative societal stereotype. Once the clothing is removed, the buyer is encouraged to collect money in the jar as often as possible and donate proceeds to Cor Unum.
Since its inception Father O'Brien has received support for the Labels effort from high-profile figures such as former Red Sox player Sean Casey, late-night television personality Conan O'Brien and fashion designer Mike Toth.
In 2009, Beckett, Lowell, Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, and Dustin Pedroia launched a Hit for Hunger campaign, releasing red and blue "Hit for Hunger" shirts which feature each player's name and number, as well as the "Hit for Hunger" and Labels Are For Jars logos.
Annually, Cor Unum serves about 200,000 meals, according to Father O'Brien. Guests eat a multi-course meal served by volunteers in restaurant-style ambience.