The Coastal Star

Finding Faith: Interfaith organization distributes more than 1 million pounds of food

Gary Peters (left), director of the board for Boca Helping Hands, and
Art Remillard, who donated the building that houses the facility, applaud
after a couple of boxes of food were weighed that pushed the organization’s
distribution to more than 1 million pounds of food. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star


Religion Calendar

Boca Raton ’s interfaith effort to feed the poor has reached a milestone: 1 million pounds of food distributed since Boca Helping Hands was formed in 1998.

Three congregations — St. Joan of Arc Catholic, First United Methodist and Temple Beth El — got the feeding program started. Now almost every religious congregation in the city holds food drives and sends volunteers to serve meals.

Hunger in Boca Raton is increasing rapidly. Helping Hands distributed 4,500 bags of groceries this past September, up from 600 bags in September 2010. The soup kitchen served 4,625 hot meals, compared to 2,718 meals two years ago.

“The middle class is getting clobbered in this economy,” executive director James Gavrilos said. “More and more families are not making it.”

Helping Hands also operates a resource center for people in crisis.

Volunteers from five churches — St. Gregory’s Episcopal, St. Paul ’s Lutheran, Boca Raton Community Church, Grace Community Church and First United Methodist — appear at five elementary schools every Friday to pack meals into backpacks to feed children on weekends. 


Women at St. Lucy Catholic Church in Highland Beach kept busy this summer making friendships.

Social events in the past have only been held in the winter to cater to St. Lucy’s many snowbirds who arrive when the weather gets nice. But the Council of Catholic Women found that many year-round women are looking for summer friendships when the council did a survey last February.

Council leaders kept the ladies active this summer by teaching them to play bridge, to paint with watercolors, to play mah-jongg and to crochet and knit. 

Summer outings included trips to the Morikami Museum and a Greek restaurant in Boca Raton. A film critic led the discussion after the women went to a movie theater to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

But most importantly, the ladies built new friendships.

“They shared the joy of each other’s company,” council president Kay Maker said.

“There’s a need for that. As people grow older, they lose the friends and relatives whom they have enjoyed in life. We provide a network of friends,” Maker said.

Michele DeGennaro was so excited about St. Lucy’s summer opportunity to socialize that she organized an Intracoastal Waterway cruise for 20 women aboard the Lady Delray. “I didn’t know anybody. I wanted to meet people,” she said.

The older women also worry about such things as when to stop driving and what happens if they outlive their money, according to the results of the February survey. So the council will bring in speakers to discuss those health and financial issues.

The first will be a Nov. 13 speaker from Boca Raton Regional Medical Center to tell how to prevent falls in the home.

“We have a wealth of topics,” Maker said. “We will have seminars to do for the next several years.” 


The Journey Church has building permits to begin $1.5 million in renovations at the former Grace Community Church near downtown Boynton Beach.

The 80 members of Grace Community made news earlier this year when they gave their church building to the 1,500 members of the rapidly growing Journey Church.

The older Grace Community congregation was struggling to pay a $600,000 mortgage on its property at 715 S. Federal Highway. The younger Journey congregation worships temporarily at Park Vista High School.

Journey senior pastor Scott Baugh challenged his congregation in April to give $2 million to pay for renovations and assume Grace Community’s debt.

Grace Community members are rejoicing after joining the larger congregation.

“We are working together and moving forward,” member Elwood Holley said. “It’s an exciting time for our lives and for East Boynton.” 


The Music at St. Paul’s concert series celebrates 25 years of bringing fine music to Delray Beach this season.

“The series is our gift to the community,” said the Rev. Chip Stokes, senior pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

St. Paul ’s requests a $15 donation. But nobody has been turned away since the series began in 1987 because they couldn’t afford a ticket.

“When we began, there wasn’t a lot of fine music in the south county. We wanted to present good music to the community and to make it affordable,” St. Paul ’s director of music Keith Paulson-Thorp said.

Music students from Lynn University join St. Paul ’s chamber ensemble on Nov. 18 to perform Baroque Scandinavian music on original instruments.

The most likely sellout during the 11-concert season will be the Feb. 3 violin performance of Gareth Johnson, a favorite in past years. “He’s going to take the world by storm,” Rev. Stokes said.

St. Paul ’s choir and chamber ensemble join the choirs of Pine Crest School and All Saints Church on March 10 to perform the South Florida premiere of a major new work based on texts by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela.

“We always have world-class musicians,” Stokes said. “We as a church are taking our place in a long history of the church as a patron of the arts.”


Jewish high school students are invited to attend an Israel advocacy course to prepare them for college.

The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach is sponsoring the “Step Up 4 Israel” four-course program for students and parents at Temple Shaarei Shalom in Boynton Beach.

“Who Needs Israel, Anyway?” sessions are designed to help Jewish students at college with study into the history of Israel, anti-Zionism and world news coverage of Israeli events. 

Tim Pallesen writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Email him at

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