“I stand in the parking lot and people hand me money,” said St. Justin Community Ministry Pastoral Associate Joe Bauer this past December. “People are generous, at this time of year especially.”
Bauer is the face of St. Justin Community Ministry in Santa Clara. He is the spirit of service and the helping hand that has reached out to feed and clothe the hungry in the community since the parish ministry began under his watch in 1989.
The Mission City Community Fund presented its 2017 Austen Warburton Community Service Award to Bauer at its annual fund-raising dinner, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center on Nov. 11, 2017. The award is presented to an individual or organization exemplifying the compassionate character of Mission City Community Fund founder Austen Warburton.
An outreach of St. Justin Parish Community, 2655 Homestead Rd., St. Justin Community Ministry was established both to serve those in need and to give parish members the opportunity to serve. It is staffed by 80 to 100 volunteers.
Bauer’s 90-year-old mom, Lucy Bauer, who still lives in the Santa Clara house the family bought in 1951, volunteers three times a week, making sandwiches for brownbag lunches.
“She’s certainly my oldest volunteer.” said Bauer.
“It’s a good service we have to help others in need,” said parish member Mary Shrank, a weekly food pantry volunteer since her 22-year-old daughter Alison was six. “A lot of people who don’t have time to volunteer, donate food or money to help out the less fortunate in our community.”
“It’s nice that people who need help with lunches or groceries can come and get some,” said Alison Shrank, volunteering with her mom in December. “It makes me feel happy that I can help others that need it.”
“I’m retired, and I feel lucky to be able to help out. I have time to give back,” said Anabelle Quiazon, who volunteers two hours daily Monday through Friday. Quiazon does whatever needs to be done, such as sorting, shelving and bagging donated food. “If people want to come and help, they’re always welcome.”
“This parish is very generous. People feel what we do is so important,” said Bauer. “The ministry is funded through five annual collections, raising $12,000 to $14,000 per collection. And a City grant of $14,000.” St. Justin Parish pays Bauer’s salary, which also inclued his responsibilities as facilities manager.
Back in 1989, St. Justin Community Ministry served fewer than 50 people a month. Today, it is a partner agency of the Santa Clara County Second Harvest Food Bank and serves as many as 2,600 a month, dipping to 2,228 in November 2017. Bauer explained that food requests have gone down as low-income families move out of the expensive Bay Area.
The ministry provides bags of food once a month to those who have cooking facilities and give daily bag lunches to the homeless. Vouchers are given to purchase clothing and household items at St. Justin Thrift Store. Prior to Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, holiday food bags (for 500 families this December) and a selection of toys and clothes are provided.
“I grew up at St. Justin, and St. Justin has always been concerned about service. I picked up on that here and at Mitty High School,” said Bauer. “As a lay person, I felt that I could get a lot done within the church structure.”
Although not a priest, Bauer is a graduate of St. Joseph’s College, Mountain View, a now-closed seminary damaged beyond repair in the 1989 earthquake. Between 1971 and 1989, he served the church in various roles, working with youth in Santa Clara, Marin County, San Jose and Los Gatos.
“Early on, working in the church seemed like what I was supposed to do, and people in the church invited me in,” said Bauer.
“[Working with St. Justin Community Ministry] is fulfilling for sure. It’s fun being here. But it’s sad that it is necessary,” said Bauer. “I get a lot of support from a lot of people. As a parish community, we’re glad to help. We’re not here to judge those we serve.”
Food assistance is available to Santa Clara residents, 10 a.m. to noon, Mondays through Saturdays. For information, contact Bauer at (408) 296-1193, ext. 109, or email@example.com. No referral is needed but Santa Clara ID is required.