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St. Philip Neri Donates $100K to Help Those in Need
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Five or six years ago, members of the Catholic Parish Community of St. Philip Neri decided to raise $100,000 for those in need. Last weekend, church officials announced the allocation of that money.

            Michael Franks – a deacon at the Catholic church, located at 1325 Klinerd Road in Upper Hanover – described the timing of the donation as providential.

            "I think God put this program at this time," Franks said. "The reality is, these are real tough times, and we just handed out $100,000 to help a lot of poor people."

            On Sunday, Nov. 29 parish administrators announced where the nearly $118,000 they raised during a multi-year campaign would be donated. During a special presentation, Franks informed an audience of 50 that $50,000 would go to The Open Link, $25,000 would go to Birthright of Pottstown, $10,000 would go to Veterans Brotherhood, Inc.

            "Those organizations spoke to the heart of what we were trying to do," he said Tuesday afternoon.

            Additionally, the parish will utilize $15,000 to start a special fund for emergency food assistance. Members of the churches on the local ministerium board will also be included. The pastor of each participating institution will be responsible for the needs of those seeking help. Gift cards from local grocery stores, valued at $50, will be made immediately available.

            Any money above and beyond $100,000 will be deposited in the Docras Fund of St. Philip Neri Parish, named after an Old Testament character known for her good works and acts of charity, to assist its own congregants who are in greatest need.

            Rev. Anthony Hangholt, the church's parochial administrator, described the gifts as a great testament to the faith and generosity of the people who made the donations. He expressed confidence that the money would be utilized to help serve the community.

            "For me, it was a proud moment," Hangholt said Tuesday afternoon.

            Parish officials originally planned on announcing their financial distribution in the spring in coordination with the church's 100th anniversary, according to Hangholt, but the pandemic delayed the announcement. He said church officials have been vetting numerous applicants for at least two years.

            Administrators solicited parishioners online and in person for donations to fund this project, according to Franks. He said the pitch included two conditions: the money would stay in the Valley and that it would be used to help poor people.

            "We made sure the people who donated the money knew it would go to whoever was in need, whether they were Catholic or not."

            The Open Link, headquartered at 452 Penn St. in Pennsburg, will use its contribution in two major ways. Stuart Bush, its executive director, identified those avenues as providing financial aid to help people get through tough times – such as to help pay for utilities – and continuing to feed food-insecure residents.

            Bush described the donation, one of the largest the organization has received under his leadership, as very generous. He said parish officials stressed a desire for applicants to utilize any awards for direct assistance, rather than salaries and other administrative expenses.

            "It's quite a testimony to the church," Bush said.

            The $10,000 donation should allow Veterans Brotherhood to help at least 100 more than usual, according to founder Clyde Hoch. The non-profit organization, based in Pennsburg, was started to prevent veterans suicide.  It also has removed more than 100 homeless veterans from the street and helped them find permanent housing and pay for back taxes, car loans, rent, food, clothes and car repairs.

            "The gift was a surprise," Hoch said. "We talked to some people from the church about a year ago. When I didn't hear anything back, I assumed we got passed over. All the church officials care about is that we use the money locally."





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