By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — In 2004, seven churches of different denominations came together to coordinate their works of charity and unity by forming PUNCH (People Uniting Neighbors and Churches). Today, 11 churches in the area of Hilltop Campus Village work together, including Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Sacred Heart’s St. Martin dePorres Society takes the lead for the cathedral’s support. “Our society’s mission of racial unity and charity is Sacred Heart’s main collaboration with the community,” said Jim Collins, the PUNCH representative for the cathedral and president of the society.
St. Martin dePorres, a member of the Dominican Order, was known for nursing the sick and caring for the poor while working for the unity of “all God’s children.” Collins said the society collaborates with PUNCH to minister to the community in a variety of ways. PUNCH is doing two big projects right now — one to help stock blessing boxes and the second to help organize a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Similar to the Little Free Library movement, Blessing Boxes are receptacles for people to donate or take items. But these boxes are intended for people in need to pick up household cleaning and personal products, Collins said. Cards for larger items are also placed in the box. Recipients can pick up those items at the Hilltop Opportunity Center, located in the former JB Young School. Collins said the boxes were set up “to be an exchange center for the Word of God and to live the word of the church to love and serve each other.”
Blessing boxes are located at three PUNCH churches: Trinity Episcopal, First Baptist and Third Missionary Baptist. Partnering churches help stock needed items . Currently, PUNCH churches are collecting cleaning and personal products. In addition, KWQC TV-6 News in Davenport will host a community drive Jan. 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its station on Brady Street to collect items for the blessing boxes. Drive up and drop off donations, including monetary donations, Collins said. Items will be stored and distributed as needed throughout the year. Monetary donations will also be used as needed.
Martin Luther King Jr. celebration
PUNCH is gearing up for its Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Jan. 21. Collins recalled the story of a young African-American community college student who wasn’t sure why he should complete college. He didn’t see successful African-Americans. A fellow student asked if he had heard of Barak Obama, who was president at the time. The second student listed off several other successful African-Americans.
That story inspired PUNCH to identify and list successful African-Americans in the Quad-City area as well as advocates for African-Americans. “We hoped to get around 100, but have identified more than 150,” Collins said. “This is just the beginning.” The Friends of MLK Interpretive Center will maintain the list and serve as a repository for information collected. This year’s celebration, sponsored by PUNCH and Friends of MLK, has the theme “From whence we came, a celebration of civil rights history.”
• The day kicks off with the blessing box collection at KWQC, Collins said.
• A civil rights history exhibit will be on display in the gathering space at Sacred Heart Cathedral from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Institutions providing items for the exhibit include the Diocese of Davenport, the Pacem in Terris Coalition, Deere & Co. archives, African American Museum of Iowa, Putnam Museum and St. Ambrose University archives.
• An audio recording of King receiving the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 1965 will be played. Photographs of King at the awards ceremony and his brief visit to Davenport will be displayed. Deere & Co. hopes to have a small model of a plane in which King flew to Chicago with then-Deere chairman William Hewitt after the award ceremony.
• A youth workshop with Jason Moritz will be hosted at the cathedral. Attendees will be selected in advance.
• The main program from 11 a.m. to noon will feature Collins speaking on the main theme inside the cathedral.
• A sandwich and chili luncheon will served from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Sears Parish Hall on the cathedral campus. The events are free and open to the public.
Collins anticipates a gathering of more than 300 people. Attendance for the annual talk, held at various PUNCH churches, continues to grow each year, he said.