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The Super Bowl and the Rice Bowl

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Clydesdales, taco chip-eating dads, farmers and some party-hearty seniors were among the stars of this year's favorite Super Bowl commercials...with the average 30-second spot costing upwards of $4 million. And while I joined along with millions of other viewers in watching and ranking my favorite commercials, I couldn't help but think what could be accomplished in our communities with even a small amount of the more than $200 million that was spent running those 50 new Super Bowl ads, let alone the millions of dollars it costs to make them!

I thought about unmet needs we see each and every day at Catholic Charities and of the many ways in which that $200 million could be spent to help Catholic Charities better achieve our goal of helping people move to self-sufficiency as we work to meet basic needs, support children and families and welcome newcomers. Imagine what we could do to improve access to quality early childhood education, to improve the range of supports we offer for teens living in these challenging times, to support and guide young families, to better help grandparents raising their grandchildren, to provide more opportunities for adult to be better prepared for today's jobs, if we had even some of those millions!

I thought, too, about the struggles so many families in our communities face at this time of year, especially the "heat or eat" challenge -- the time of year when for some, there is just not enough money to do both.

Families like Steve's.* Steve is a single father, raising not only his own teenager, but his young nephews. He is a working Dad, but the car Steve relies on to travel back and forth to his job is old and needed to be repaired to be road worthy. Steve was able to borrow some money from his extended family to put towards the repair bill, but still faces other bills -- electric, rent and heat -- not to mention the grocery bill that seems only to grow larger as Steve feeds his growing boys.

Asking for help to feed his family is something that is a bit foreign to Steve; he has always been proud of his ability to provide. And so it was with great hesitation that he came to Catholic Charities seeking assistance. Happily, we were able to provide his family with groceries enough to bridge the gap between paychecks.

But this is the time of year when we at Catholic Charities find that our pantries are not always full enough to meet the needs of all who come seeking help. So we are determined to "Restock Our Shelves." We are fortunate to receive broad community support in these efforts to keep food in our pantries. Donations from generous individuals and parishes help ensure that we have food for those in need.

We also benefit from the Lenten sacrifice made by so many throughout the Archdiocese as they support of Catholic Relief Services through "Operation Rice Bowl." The Rice Bowl provides a terrific opportunity to learn more about the work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS provides assistance to people in nearly 100 countries across the globe, without regard to race, religion or nationality, and is considered one of the most effective international aid organizations in the world. Catholic Relief Services shares 25 percent of the Rice Bowl donations made in this archdiocesan effort with Catholic Charities. We, in turn, use that donation to help keep our food pantries stocked to meet local need.

We are grateful to all of those who help us as we care for those in our communities -- our families, friends and neighbors -- who continue to struggle to make ends meet. We certainly cannot do this work alone!

To learn more about our efforts to "Restock the Shelves," and all of the work of Catholic Charities, go to www.ccab.org.

* Not his real name

Debbie Rambo, LICSW, is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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