Amen to Action tops goals for meals, vols

Volunteers at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13.

The pandemic forced Amen to Action out of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, but it may be one of the best things that’s happened in the five years of the event.

Not only did more than a million meals get packaged for the hungry in southwestern Pennsylvania, more volunteers got involved through neighborhood churches across the region and took ownership, according to one leader.

Cindy Deschaine, pastoral associate for “The Great Grouping” of parishes in Ambridge, Baden, Conway and Franklin Park, served as a coach for 10 churches that hosted packing events on four weekends in November. She said more than 3,000 volunteers signed up to pack meals of dried ingredients such as beans, oatmeal and pasta into individual servings.

She visited Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood on November 13, and a week later went to Saint Joan of Arc Church in South Park, part of Saint Catherine Labore Parish, and found both sites buzzing with excitement.

“It showed the ecumenical heart of what Amen to Action was meant to be,” Deschaine said. “There were people of all ages, and many kids. People from all denominations went to different churches.”

When it was all over, the volunteers put together 1,004,772 meals.

Amen to Action grew from a series of conversations that Bishop David Zubik hosted with diverse Christian leaders ranging from Catholic and Baptist to Eastern Orthodox to Pentecostal. It’s sponsored by the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation.

“I think the most important part of Amen to Action is to think about the title,” Bishop Zubik said while volunteering the day after Thanksgiving at Saint Jude Parish in Pittsburgh’s East End. “What we do here is to say it is not just enough to pray with our lips. We have to do it with our actions.”

At North Catholic High School in Cranberry, many students volunteered as part of their charitable work they do every year. Collectively the student body volunteers nearly 12,000 hours every school year.

Saying a prayer before packaging meals at St. Joan of Arc Church on Nov. 20.