Church plans to expand outreach

St. John Bosco Catholic Church will soon start a new chapter in its community outreach efforts with the opening of a new thrift store early next month.

Catholic Outreach Board President Karlene Webster said the outreach has heard louder cries for help in recent years than it has since its inception in 1982. Even when she started manning the phones two years ago, she said she would get around two calls per day. Recently, she said she’s been responding to more than twice as many calls – the private database they keep lists more than 2,400 client families.

“The parishioners here started noticing a lot of homeless walking around, and people naturally call the Catholic Church when they’re in need,” she said. “It just started small and it turned out to be huge.”

Through sales at their thrift store and donations, Webster said the outreach had brought in a three-year sum of just under $200,000, 99 percent of which was distributed.

At the same time, St. John Bosco’s congregation itself has experienced a growth spurt in recent years; so much that the Rev. Michael Dobbins  formed a master planning committee to set up options for a new location.

The church obtained the old Valley Herald building as part of a five-lot expansion acquisition Dobbins had approved through the diocese. The corner location of the building was perfect for in-and-out traffic, but the building was dirty and in disrepair after more than a year of disuse. Dobbins said the bathroom had been leaking for about 40 years and was completely rotted.

Many businesses and volunteers stepped up to help get the building into working order. Labadie Painting and Gene’s Plumbing provided free services to spruce up the interior and fix the bathroom, and Lowe’s offered a $400 discount on materials for new flooring.

“We’ve had so many different companies pitching in and vowing to maintain property … as people are watching things go on I’ve had four people just walk up to me with a check in hand,” Webster said. “It’s mind boggling that they notice – we’re not asking for anything, they’re just noticing.”

A team of cadets from Massanutten Military Academy that come to Mass will be helping out by bringing some muscle to the move on Oct. 31. In early November, Bishop Paul Loverde will bless the new building to help those in need. The old thrift store location will eventually be demolished.

The countywide Family Promise program, through which families in Shenandoah can help keep impoverished families together by hosting them for periods of time, will soon find a new home near the church. Adults participating in the program will be able to use the Handley Hall on the original campus around early 2016 as a family center to search and train for jobs while their children are at school.

“It’s truly a widespread effort on the part of many of the churches in Shenandoah County to address this,” Dobbins said. “Of course it’s not perfect, but you have to start somewhere and this is certainly a nice start; it highlights a need to address this particular issue in Shenandoah County.”

Dobbins said that charitable spirit has also been felt in the setup of the new thrift store, paving the way for further outreach in years to come.

“There’s so many people from the community who are supporting that mission and it’s a beautiful way of showing how we need each other,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or

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