22 January, 2019
I write to you today to invite your generosity for our brothers and sisters in Pennsylvania who are furloughed federal workers, experiencing the effects of a partial federal government shut-down that has lasted, now, 32 days.
The Pennsylvania Food Bank has opened its two primary hubs in Williamsport and Harrisburg from 4:00-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays to offer food to those workers affected by the shutdown. Workers must display their work badge to receive packages of food. 
Approximately 12,000 workers in Pennsylvania have been affected by the shutdown in nine different agencies including the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce and Interior. 
Since the shutdown started on December 22, 2018, the office of Unemployment Compensation has received an increase of 15% in its usual volume of claims- in the first three weeks of the shutdown, more than 2,000 federal workers filed claims, hoping for assistance.  Those workers who are considered essential are required to stay on the job without pay, and are not considered unemployed by the law, so they are ineligible to apply for benefits.
Without an end to the shutdown in sight, I am asking for us to increase our generosity in giving to the Pennsylvania Food Bank, either as parishes or as individuals. This is one way that we can, as neighbors, assist those with their most basic need of food. While many of our congregations already faithfully donate food and serve the needs of those in their local context through community suppers and parish pantries, I am hoping that we can expand ( increase ) our efforts in this time of need. Thank you for all that you do.
The Pennsylvania Food Bank accepts donations at their Harrisburg and Williamsport sites and has information on their webpage for how to organize a food drive in your parish or place of employment. They are also in need of additional volunteers in this time of increased need; I have registered as a volunteer and hope that some of you will join me as we seek to serve our neighbors. The website for the PA Food Bank is https://www.centralpafoodbank.org.
Jesus tells us that in caring for others- clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and feeding the hungry- we are serving him. (Matthew 25) I pray for our compassion and generosity in these days as we come together to serve Jesus, neighbor, strangers, and friends.