St. Brigid Fellowship

Team photo taken March 17, 2013
From left: Noelle Ballew, Valerie Yova, Richard Barre, Jennifer Ferraez, Debbie McQuade,
Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, Nikolai Rice - holding icon of St. Brigid, Rebekah Cash,
Pat Matthews, Obadiah Robinson, Kevin Speier, Corina Berari, Nataliya Tinyayeva

Missing: Duane Franzen, Jill Wallerstedt, Gail Shannon, Susan Barre, Carla Brunstead, Joanne Gish, Carla Harris,
Peggy King, Jane Meyer, Sara Monge, Kate Vander Laan

St. Brigid of Ireland
A.D. 451-525
Commemorated on February 1

It is unknown whether St. Brigid of Ireland was raised as a Christian, or converted to Christianity as a teen, but either way she was inspired by St. Patrick and developed a deep love for God.  Despite her father's opposition, St. Brigid was determined to lead a religious life.  She had a generous heart and could not bear to turn the poor away from her father's door.  Her giving often angered her father, until he finally relented to allow her to enter a monastery. 

St. Brigid dedicated her life to Christ, and founded many monasteries.  In Kildare in Ireland St. Brigid founded a monastery for nuns, which was the beginning of cenobitic, or community, monasticism for women in Ireland.  She was the abbess of this monastery, and proved to be a wise and prudent leader.  She reposed peacefully and took her place in the Kingdom of God, and is remembered for her common sense, generosity, and great love for God.

ST. BRIGID FELLOWSHIP

St. Brigid Fellowship is a ministry started by St. Athanasius Orthodox Church as an outreach ministry to homeless men, women and children of Isla Vista and surrounding areas. Approximately 80-100 individuals at any one time are homeless in Goleta and Isla Vista. Some sleep on the streets while others live in cars, vans, garages or other sub-standard housing situations.

St. Brigid Fellowship is a unifying force in Isla Vista for the homeless and other people in need. We are a group of people working together to solve homelessness one person at a time. To be homeless is to be nameless, avoided, shunned, blamed, hungry and exposed to the elements. Each visitor to St. Brigid's is known by name, has a place to belong, has friends, acceptance, food,  and help getting out of any situations they wish to leave. We use an incarnational model, meeting people on the streets as Jesus did, addressing immediate needs and starting relationships that can lead out of homelessness. This is not a one-way ministry, us to them. All of us – housed and unhoused - work together to solve our own problems and the problems of others and the community.

St. Brigid Fellowship has over an 11-year history of outreach which began as a simple weekly meal and for several years expanded to include breakfast and the offer of a number of other services, including access to:

  • A mailing address for the homeless to receive mail;
  • Internet and phone services;
  • Referrals to medical and social services
  • Help getting into detox programs
  • Help in applying for government assistance;
  • Assistance with finding family members;
  • Compassionate listeners;
  • Food, clothing, and sleeping bags

In 2012, the Parish Council of St. Athanasius Church made the decision to simplify the ministry of St. Brigid Fellowship, and so we have returned our focus to the Monday evening outreach meal.  After we moved to Goleta from our Isla Vista property,  St. Michael's Episcopal (University) Church graciously opened its doors to us and has provided a beautiful and peaceful setting for the weekly outreach meal.  The food is provided each week in collaboration with cooking teams from a growing number of churches, including St. Michael's University Church, St. Raphael Catholic Church, St. Mark's Methodist Church, and All Saints Episcopal Church. 

There is a consistent and wonderful team of volunteers from the participating parishes and from the greater community who show up on Monday nights.  They help to serve the food when needed, and if they are not needed on the food line, they socialize with our dinner guests.  Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, Jennifer Ferraez and Jill Wallerstedt are present, when possible, to provide referrals and information about various kinds of social services, and Doctors Without Walls comes every other week to set up a free medical clinic during the meal.  St. Athanasius continues to offer a mailing address to the homeless individuals who need to receive government assistance checks and other important mail and mail is distributed at the Monday night meal.

On Christmas morning we offer a very beautiful and festive breakfast for the homeless that has been well attended for many years by our homeless brethren, and well supported by the members of St. Athanasius.  At the breakfast, gifts are given to each guest, including blankets, backpacks, socks, warm hats and gloves, clothing and toiletries.  In 2012, the Christmas gifts were provided through the generosity of several of our collaborating churches.

OUR TEAM  

Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges is the priest in charge and Chaplain of St. Brigid Fellowship. He is also a Sheriff's Chaplain, attends community meetings addressing the needs of the poor and homeless, and serves on a variety of non-profit boards.  Jennifer Ferraez, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, attends the weekly outreach meal and serves as a resource for anyone who needs help within the social service and mental health arenas. Jill Wallerstedt, former Director of St. Brigid Fellowship and currently on the staff of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission also serves as a resource for referrals to a wide variety of services and agencies, Richard Barre is the Coordinator for the Monday night outreach dinner at St. Michael's Church and currently handles the logistical and administrative responsibilities for the ministry.

Our team also includes several dozen volunteers from our own parish, the University of California Santa Barbara, the community and many local churches.  We currently have seven different teams of volunteers who rotate cooking responsibilities for the Monday night outreach dinners.

Monday Night Outreach Dinner
Time:           Served at 4:30 p.m. during the winter months.
                   Served at 5:00 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time
Location:   St. Michael University Episcopal Church
                          6586 Picasso
                          Isla Vista, CA 93117

 If you have questions about St. Brigid Fellowship, or would like to leave a message for any of our team members, please contact:

St. Athanasius Orthodox Church
805-685-5400   or  office@stathanasius.org