In the days of “safer at home” and social distancing, the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Garfield Avenue might be the busiest spot in Venice on Saturday mornings.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., some 200 cars make their way into the parking lot of St. Mark Church via a Covid-conscious drive-thru system. Waiting for them are volunteers in bright yellow safety vests and face masks with grocery bags carrying fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, milk, and bread.
The order is first come, first serve. No sign-up required, no questions asked.
Organizers said 6,000 pounds of food are served here every week, although they’re not really sure how their small effort has gotten this big….
For St. Mark’s administrator Father Albert van der Woerd, the project is a testimony to the good that can come out of a difficult year like 2020.
Originally from the Netherlands, the 60-year-old has only been a priest for four years. When he arrived at St. Mark’s last year, he could not have imagined that besides having to close his parish in a pandemic, he would also be spending time in negotiations over the development of a 40-unit supportive housing project for the chronically homeless on Lincoln Boulevard.
The issue centered around the proposed location of the taxpayer-funded project, known as the Lincoln Apartments, next to St. Mark’s parish center. Involved in the proposal was Safe Place for Youth, a nonprofit that currently works out of the location.
Parish families expressed safety and privacy concerns, since a private driveway behind the complex provides access to the church parking lot, used often by parents and children for the school, and now, for the Saturday food drives.
After months of discussion between developers, lawyers, local citizen groups — often in the public forum — the archdiocese and developers reached an agreement that addressed the concerns raised. The project got final approval in September….
From a church that has some 1,500 registered families and 300 children at the school, parishioners Geoff and Michelle Forgione have a second-grader and another starting transitional kindergarten at St. Mark. The Forgiones, living in nearby Mar Vista, were among some 200 families that wrote personal letters to LA City Councilman Mike Bonin to express concerns.
Geoff, who recently joined the parish council, said he admired how Father van der Woerd navigated criticism by sticking to his principled approach.
“Father Albert really did his homework and did a lot of listening to a lot of people,” said Geoff, an attorney by trade. “There was a concerted campaign to undermine him and compel him to change course. To his credit, he fought through it in a very dignified and determined way, and in the end we extracted significant concessions from the developers in the interest of child safety….”
The above comes from a Dec. 28 story in Angelus News.