The Harvest Festival & Trinity Center: A Partnership in Kindness
Prior to 2013, St Anselm's held an Annual Harvest Festival Dinner to celebrate the successes of the year. Generally the event was social with whatever proceeds were achieved going to a number of worthwhile causes. This changed in 2014 with the beginning of Trinity Center and its focus on the Homeless.
St. Anselm's commitment to Trinity Center started when St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek helped form a task force with local leaders to do something about rising homelessness in Walnut Creek and the surrounding communities. The local group created Trinity Center of Walnut Creek (TC) in late 2012. Trinity Center's work with the homeless began two days a week, hosting services to the homeless in a small home on St. Paul's property.
Former Rector of St. Anselm's, Rev. John Sutton, became aware of the work at Trinity Center and in late 2013, and the Vestry of St. Anselm's decided to dedicate its Annual Harvest Festival (HF) proceeds to help fund TC. The event was not a part of St. Anselm's budget, but kept as a self-funding event. Thus, neither the cost of the event nor the contribution to TC have been a part of the St. Anselm's operating budget.
In 2014 a committee was formed by then Vestry member, Marty Fischer, that included Anne Brown, John Powers, Sara Nelson, Gail Clarke, Sara Swimmer and other congregation members to plan the first HF Auction and Dinner held in October 2014. The committee organized ticket sales, offering the drawing winner a Holland America Cruise, a silent auction and live auction. At this first event a total of over $16k after expenses was contributed to TC. A similar event was
conducted in 2015 and the amount raised was over $30k. Importantly, various aspects of the TC mission were presented to HF attendees each year. The response to the needs was substantial. In the ensuing years numerous members of St. Anselm's
became involved as volunteers, serving meals, conducting food and clothing drives. St Anselm's became an important part of both the financial support and volunteer fabric of TC. And we began to notice something... the beaten down faces of
homelessness at TC started to smile a bit more.
In 2016 the City of Walnut Creek and the Armory combined with TC to open up a winter program offering up to 50 people a dinner and place to sleep during the cold and wet months of December through April. In 2016, major funding for this program became the focus of the HF. Amazingly, the contribution in that year jumped to over $54k and each HF continued at the $50k plus level through 2019.
Over those years, TC involvement with homelessness and the working poor grew and so did the daily attendance. The little home that housed TC gave way to a new complex opened in 2019. The New offices featured 44 low cost apartments as part of the complex. Services mushroomed as TC became central to the homeless and working poor. New programs were added including an intervention youth education program. The two day a week oasis of 2014 grew to a five day a week home for those without a home. They could wash their clothes, eat a breakfast and lunch, get counseling, get help with finding low cost housing, socialize, play cards and watch TV. Importantly they were not on the streets and in the alleys of Walnut Creek and surrounding areas.
But the poverty problem grew into the plague of our times. The handful of people served by TC in 2014 grew and the few seeking relief at TC became 60 a day by 2021 and by mid 2022 reached 80 per day. If it weren't for TC these folks would be on the street in Walnut Creek and surrounding communities and have no doorway to opportunity for their way out of hopelessness and poverty.
In 2020, life got very complicated with Covid. The HF Committee was not able to hold the Annual Dinner & Auction
event. The group decided to create a series of emails and videos to continue the appeal for the increasing needs at TC.
The campaign was extended to a series of communications and asked all members to send the informational emails to
friends and families. Our prayers were answered when one friend who wasn't a member of St. Anselm's, moved by the
needs at TC, contributed $50,000 right before Christmas and the HF raise doubled to over $101k. In 2021 a total of $89K was realized.
In 2022, 10 years after St. Anselm's started supporting this humanitarian outreach, we again are faced with limitations that negate a live event. We will continue with the email outreach and encourage building the
network of support for the ever growing needs at TC. TC has become a model program for a community supported answer to homelessness and poverty. It combines local answers to the real plague of our times. For those of us who live in this community, it provides cleaner and safer streets. For those caught up in poverty and hopelessness, TC creates the services of a home and importantly builds a "doorway to opportunity". The St. Anselm's community is proud of our long-term support for this humane outreach and eager to continue support the growing needs.