Spirit of giving continues throughout the year

The number of local residents who have been helped by staff and volunteers at the Benedict House in Bremerton is staggering. The program is operated by Catholic Community Services. - Photo by Jesse Beals
The number of local residents who have been helped by staff and volunteers at the Benedict House in Bremerton is staggering. The program is operated by Catholic Community Services.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals


Staff writer

Catholic Community Services (CCS) of Western Washington is alive and well in Kitsap County.

And the holiday season brought out many caring citizens willing to lend a helping hand.

“A few people have called in saying they wanted to help out at Christmastime,” said Franciscan Sister Pat Millen, CCS Kitsap Family Center developer and Benedict House program director. “At this time of year we find that more people want to volunteer.”

The Kitsap Family Center, located on Sixth Street in Bremerton, helped many people throughout the year and the numbers are staggering. The CCS programs and services provided:

• Quality learning opportunities for 196 children

• 38,000 service hours through the Foster Grandparent Program

• 21,216 hours of Volunteer Chore Services for 564 low income elderly adults and disabled adults

• Counseling services for 910 clients

• Professional counseling services for 77 families

• 9,490 bed nights and 10,220 meals for homeless men at Benedict House on Cambrian Avenue in Bremerton

Millen said that people tend to bring items such as food and clothing to hand out at the Kitsap Family Center and the Benedict House during the holidays.

“What we find this time of year is that people are forever bringing in goodies to give out,” Millen said.

The Benedict House provides emergency shelter and transitional residence for homeless men including some with children.

“It’s not a typical homeless shelter, it’s a home,” Millen said.

CCS volunteers help prepare meals to serve to residents of Benedict House and Millen said most people seem to enjoy the experience.

“I find that those who come and volunteer here get to know the men much better,” she said. “Once they come out here and volunteer they want to come back.”

Alex Munro, lead site monitor at the Benedict House, said people learn a lot about the homeless while volunteering at the home.

“People come in here with preconceived notions of what homeless people are and they leave saying they’re normal folks,” Munro said.

CCS volunteers aren’t the only ones who enjoy helping others. The men of the Benedict House recently collected money for a fellow resident so he could fly to Idaho to see his mother who is dying of cancer.

“The guys and staff got money together so he could go home to Idaho,” Munro said. “Most of the guys only make about $350 a month and they took up a collection plate for him.”

Millen said CCS does not serve just Catholic families and volunteers do not have to be Catholic.

Darla Merkouris, of Port Orchard, volunteers for CCS and works at CCS’s Caring Place Early Learning Center in Bremerton and said most of her co-workers are not Catholic. She enjoys volunteering for CCS and giving back to others in need.

“I think it’s rewarding for me,” Merkouris said. “I was very ill for a long time and now I can go back and do the same for others.”

For more information on volunteering at the CCS Kitsap Family Center, contact Donna Jones at (360) 405-0072 or e-mail her at For information on the Benedict House, contact Millen at (360) 405-9486 or e-mail her at

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