No matter how one feels about non-denominational megachurches, their size allows them to do some amazing things. Consider the Chicago-area Willow Creek Community Church, one of the bigger "brands" in the non-denom world, which just built a new "care center" where those in need can come and "shop" for food, children's clothing, even eyeglasses. It's 60,000 square feet are laid out, according to the Chicago Tribune, "less like a thrift shop or food pantry, and more like an upscale mall, complete with cheery colors, welcoming seating areas and designer lighting," according to the Chicago Tribune. Clients pay something if they are able–$5 to visit the children's "boutique," for example, or a $20 copay for an eye exam.
I'm not sure any Catholic parish alone could pull something like this off–and even a service provider of this size and scope can't replace the kind of justice work that would guarantee a living wage and fair access to the common good–but there is something to the idea of providing a place where people in need can both get what they need and experience the dignity of choosing their own food and clothing without having to rummage through piles of discards. (Though perhaps there is a conversation to be had about the connection between being able to shop and human dignity.) Catholic Charities and other social service agencies, of course, meet some of these needs, but doing this kind of work at the congregational level seems just as important. Anyone know of Catholic parishes doing this kind of work? I'm sure they are out there.