Due to the shelter-in-place restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, Order of Malta members in Northern California wanted to find new and creative ways to carry out the mission of caring for the poor and the sick. Members in Los Angeles had already discovered a solution, which they’ve implemented for the past ten years: assembling and distributing hygiene kits to the homeless and displaced population.
San Jose adopted this idea and the Hospitaller, Tony Mirenda, KM, led the endeavor by organizing and coordinating the hygiene kit distribution throughout Northern California. With his leadership and with the help of the newest Mobile Ministry van, members assembled and distributed more than 4,000 kits since the project began.
This was something new, something that other charities weren’t doing, and it helped to fill a need for many people.
This project engages members in various jobs. San Jose held three events where members broke down pallets of hygiene supplies into bags for 25 kits. These were then distributed to various members, who assembled the kits at home.
In April, members began distributing the kits to various charities, homeless encampments, and other places throughout the Bay Area, Monterey and Sacramento.
Just this month, members distributed kits at three different locations in the San Jose area. On July 2, Mobile Ministries held an event with Catholic Charities in downtown San Jose, where Knights and Dames distributed men’s and women’s hygiene kits to the homeless at John XXIII Multi-Service Center.
On July 5, a Knight and Provisional Knight walked the various encampments in Gilroy, south of San Jose, distributing hygiene kits and sharing fellowship with those they met.
On July 7, the Order of Malta Mobile Ministry participated in a multi-agency support event at Our Lady of Refuge Parish in South San Jose, as part of the Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County Parish Engagement program. This program serves the poor and displaced in South San Jose by connecting those who need immediate help to vital social service programs in Santa Clara County. Multi-agency events simplify access to services and help the greatest number of people at one time.
In addition to the many available services at this event, Knights and Dames distributed summer hygiene kits, which contain a full-size sunscreen and lip balm along with the regular hygiene supplies, while Martha’s Kitchen provided hot meals and Second Harvest Food Free Community Market provided food boxes for those in need. Long lines remained even after all hygiene kits were distributed.
The next monthly event is scheduled for July 25.