Christmas collections go to people in need - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Christmas collections go to people in need

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YAKIMA--The larger crowds at Christmas services may seem an inconvenience to some, but they're a big boost to many people in need.

Every church in the Catholic Diocese of Yakima--41 parishes spanning from Wenatchee to Moses Lake and all the way to the Tri-Cities--donates all the money collected at their Christmas masses to charity programs.

That money makes a world of difference to some people in need.

Teresa Perez lives in a small apartment off of Sixth Street with her 18-year-old son.  Her two daughters have to live nearby with an aunt.

She suffers from debilitating illnesses, and combined with a bad economy, she's unable to hold a steady job.  She can't afford to have her whole family under one roof.

"I don't have the resources for my children,"  Perez said.  "It makes me feel [bad] because we don't have the money for [rent] or anything."

That's where Catholic Family and Child Services comes in.  Without them, Christmas presents may not be an option.

Much of the money making this happen for Perez and hundreds of other families comes from Christmas masses.

Churchgoers give roughly $160,000 over these two days, with all the money going to charitable programs run by the diocese.

It's been that way since the Yakima diocese was founded more than 50 years ago.

"We respond to the needs of the poor in a special way by making this collection available to them," Father Michael Pope, pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Yakima, said.

Perez has received financial and emotional support from Catholic charities since her 9-year-old daughter LuciMaria died from brain cancer in 2003.

She's actually a Mormon, but that doesn't exclude her from aid.  The charity chooses its recipients based on need, not religion.

Despite the hardships in her life, she feels blessed.

"There's always somebody there," Perez said.  "When a door closes, there's another door ready to open."