SAN BENITO — About this same time last year, churches around the Rio Grande Valley were holding their annual fall festival fundraisers.
From selling an array of vendor-specialty food like sweet funnel cakes and savory sausage tacos to hosting entertainment for families to listen and dance to, the festivals had a variety of activities that often drew in large crowds for evenings filled with fun.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench in this year’s annual activities, and caused communities around the world to be faced with unprecedented times for the past several months.
The St. Benedict Catholic Church in San Benito and the Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Port Isabel decided to cancel their fall festivals, which are one of their largest fundraisers of the year.
The churches’ annual festivities may be missing this year, but they’ve brainstormed new ways the public can help them raise money during these times of hardship.
Father Luis Tinajero, of the St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, said the church is definitely in need of a fundraiser this year.
“We’re here to help the public in any way that we’re able to, especially when they’re in most need of anything,” he said. “Whether it’s food or spiritual, we’re here to help anybody.”
Tinajero said the church’s programs are operating via Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and all health protocols and social distancing measures are being followed.
“We’re doing our Masses and people receive sacraments,” St. Benedict’s Catholic Church secretary Evelyn Hernandez said. “Everything is being monitored, as far as the number of people coming into the church, facial coverings, hand sanitizing and temperatures are taken at the entrance.”
After each service, the church is also fully disinfected and ready for the following Mass.
According to Hernandez, the church’s October Fall Festival is a very popular event that normally brings in a lot of people.
“It’s a very family-oriented event that’s usually held for two days,” Tinajero said. “We have a huge raffle during that festival. Last year, the main prize was a car.”
Tinajero said the festival was not held to just serve as a fundraiser, but to also create a space for the community to join together and have a good time.
“Last year, we had music groups playing for us. People were dancing,” he said. “There were rides for the kids and a lot of things, but it was mainly to get the community together to talk and interact with each other. To remind us that we are one community even though we come to different Masses and services, we are one community.”
Currently, the church is in the process of reorganizing and planning a fundraiser.
Tinajero said based on preliminary talks, people seem interested in the church raffling money or gift cards because people are hurting financially.
“Some are without a job and others had their hours cut,” Tinajero said. “With the raffle, we also want to help the community. That’s why, these are the preliminary talks, that it’s probably best just to raffle gift cards so people can buy whatever items they need at the moment.”
Tinajero said the church is accepting donations online at its website and Facebook page.
There is also a drop-off offertory box at the church’s parish office and/or offerings can be mailed to the church.
“All of the churches are very expensive,” he said. “I’m sure everybody has a huge building and all the insurances are very expensive and that’s usually what the fall festivals’ money is used for.”
Tinajero said he hopes that all the churches in the Valley are able to receive help from their community and members.
“We’re still here to help people in any way we can,” he said. “That’s one of the things that we do, help people.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.stbenedicttx.org/ or call the St. Benedict’s Catholic Church at (956) 626-1265.
In place of the Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church’s annual La Fiesta Bazaar, the parish is organizing a raffle fundraiser.
The raffle includes cash, gift card prizes. Tickets are $10 each, with two chances to win.
“It is of great importance that we have this fundraiser to help us financially, as our weekend collections have decreased more than 50 percent since the month of March,” one of the church’s weekly news fliers stated. “Please open your hearts so that we can have a successful fundraiser.”
For more information about the raffle fundraiser or to make a donation, email email@example.com or call the church’s parish office at (956) 943-1297.