‘Phenomenal thing’: St. Augustine Hunger Center serves thousands on Christmas Day

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — For nearly 50 years, it has been a Christmas tradition at the St. Augustine Hunger Center in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, to provide a meal for the less fortunate, and a warm place for them to celebrate the holiday.

“This is a phenomenal thing that happens in Cleveland, to feed those in need, to make them feel welcome and loved on Christmas,” said Meghan McGuan with Catholic Charities.

It is the dedication of a team of volunteers that allows St. Augustine to serve 15,000 at the church on West 14th Street, as well as at other hunger centers in the region, and through home delivery to shut-ins.

Rev. Chuck Behrens with North Royalton Christian Church told Fox 8, “even a small amount of people can do a large amount of good, and so we collected gloves, hats, toys for kids, and everyone can get involved with that, because it’s one thing to give a gift, it’s another thing to realize you are the gift and everybody, no matter what they, no matter who they are, is a part of that giving.”

The most powerful chapters in the St. Augustine Christmas story are written by those who were saved by the kindness they found at the hunger center, and decided to return as volunteers.

A volunteer known as Cat told us, “I came from being homeless, I have a couple 24 hours of recovery, me and my children used to come down here. After I got sober and clean, someone asked I wanted to come down and give back and I didn’t understand, ‘like why’, but I’ve been coming here for the last 10 years, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.”

The tradition at St. Augustine was created by Cleveland icons, Sister Corita Ambro and Father Joe McNulty. They are now retired and the torch has now been passed to a new generation of charitable Clevelanders. The footprints that Sister Corita and Father Joe left in the sand are found everywhere at Saint Augustine.  

“When I first came here, we ended up eating and Sister Corita put her hands on me, she said ‘what a wonderful person you have become’ and I’m like ‘who are you’ you know,” said Cat. “Coming back here and giving back to the community is an amazing thing, that’s one of the things that continue to keep me where I’m at, grounded in my recovery.”

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