A 'living model' for helping those in need

By Jean Parietti

Reprinted with the permission of the Catholic Northwest Progress

John Morford
John Morford | PhotoByMike.com
Serving a communal meal for 300 needy people at Blessed Sacrament Parish every Sunday and helping another 130 households stock their pantries each Friday requires organization, manpower and dedication.

So the parish is fortunate to have volunteer John Morford, a 75-year-old retired professor of Seattle University’s College of Education, whose forte is keeping the food programs running smoothly and motivating nearly 100 volunteers.

“He’s just an amazing leader,” said Mark Sisk, who has volunteered with Morford for many years through Blessed Sacrament’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, which manages the food programs. “He’s very inspiring in his passion for what he does,” Sisk said. “I think that kind of filters down to all the volunteers.”

For his work with the food programs, and for serving as a unpaid consultant to local Catholic schools over the past 13 years, Morford received this year’s Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen Humanitarian Award from Catholic Community Services/Archdiocesan Housing Authority.

“His devotion to the poor is Christ-like,” Blessed Sacrament pastor Father Daniel Syverstad, O.P., wrote in endorsing Morford for the award. “In my view, he is a living model for those who would practice the Gospel by helping their brothers and sisters who are in need.”

Morford first worked with the St. Vincent de Paul Society when he and three others started a conference in their Pasco parish in the 1950s.

“I’ve always been interested in helping others,” Morford said. “Throughout my teaching career, I was really involved in social issues.”

For instance, he founded one of the nation’s first programs to prepare teachers for work in impoverished neighborhoods. When he directed an educational leadership doctoral program at Seattle University, students were required to take on social commitments above and beyond their academic work.

“As a human being, I believe that’s the way people ought to live, so I try to do that,” he said.
Morford and his wife, Jerene, have managed the Blessed Sacrament food bank since his retirement in 1995. In 2000, he became director of the parish food programs, including the Sunday dinner (managed by the Society since 1969). He also is president of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference.

Morford organizes the monthly meal-planning meeting, orders food, picks up supplies and even does maintenance work on the walk-in freezer. He initiated a recycling program and now the group is composting food waste, Sisk said.

“For someone who’s not compensated, it’s amazing how much time and energy he puts into it. He does the work of three or four people,” Sisk said. “John not only makes the world a better place, John inspires others to do so as well,” Sisk wrote in his nomination letter.

Morford says his wife’s example and support have been his inspiration. “A day never goes by in which she does not do something to help someone in need,” he said.

Mission Day Gathering

The Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen Award was one of three given March 27 during “A Future Full of Hope,” the Catholic Community Services/Archdiocesan Housing Authority Mission Day at Holy Rosary Church in Edmonds.

The other 2007-08 CCS/AHA awards and their recipients were:

The Archbishop Alex J. Brunett Outstanding Benefactor Award, presented to John and Carolyn Cunningham of Seattle’s St. Bridget Parish. The Cunninghams made a significant financial commitment that allowed CCS/AHA to redesign its Web site and improve its Web-based fund-raising efforts.

The Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Servant Leadership Award, which honors an outstanding CCS/AHA program. The staff of CD System Northwest, providing chemical dependency services in Whatcom and Snohomish counties, was recognized for successfully integrating two other chemical dependency programs and creating a financially stable and well-regarded program during the past three years.

First published by the Catholic Northwest Progress - April 17, 2008 Edition

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