The Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School student council are seen with Father Ricky Varner, parochial vicar of Epiphany, and Emily Shaw of Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, and their teacher advisor Katie Underwood. (COURTESY)

Cathedral steps up to help Habitat

Venice | Epiphany Cathedral has stepped up to raise nearly $20,000 toward the building of the Habitat for Humanity House in South Venice. The Cathedral accounts for one-third of the donations sought from 15 South Sarasota County churches of various denominations as part of a House That Faith Built initiative. The money was raised from a Souper Bowl event Feb. 1 — a soup-tasting competition with more than 300 people attending.

According to Emily Shaw, Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County community outreach coordinator, the initiative sought a total of $60,000 from the 15 area churches. “The Cathedral did an awesome job,” Shaw said. “They beat all our expectations.”

With the assistance of the student council, students started their own initiative to donate spare change for Habitat, which will last through Lent. Shaw spoke to them March 7, and explained the need for affordable homes for families.

Each home costs more than $140,000 to build and the owners must contribute money as well as help build their own home. Shaw said the home is being built near the intersection of State Road 776 and Jacaranda Boulevard. When completed, it will be the 133rd house Habitat has built in the South Sarasota County area.

While the Diocese of Venice and Catholic Charities of the Diocese provides several hundred housing units, this is an ecumenical endeavor with community engagement. Therefore, the Cathedral Parish and the Bishop saw merit in the participating in this project.

Cathedral Parochial Vicar Father Ricky Varner, whose soup won the tasting competition, has helped promote the Habitat initiative. He said he was not surprised by the generosity of the parishioners, noting that when a call for help goes out, they respond quickly and with great enthusiasm.

The Habitat initiative is one of many outreach efforts of the Cathedral. Each month, the parish donates food and has volunteers go to Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee to assist migrant farm workers with a variety of services such as a food pantry and soup kitchen. Regular support also goes to neighboring Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities which provides housing for mothers with young children.