Parishioners help Filipino teachers furnish their new homes

As Filipino teachers arrive in Baltimore to educate city students, they usually bring little more with them than a few changes of clothes.

This has inspired parishioners from St. Francis de Sales, Abingdon, and St. John the Evangelist, Hydes, to help the new residents furnish their new homes.

“They have left their homeland and have come to a foreign country to teach the children in our city schools,” said Debbie Ballweg of Riverside, a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales. “The way we look at it, they have made a sacrifice for us. We should welcome them and make them comfortable in their new home.”

The volunteers who have delivered more than 50 truckloads of donated furniture to the new arrivals from the Philippines – most of whom are Catholic – since last St. Patrick’s Day say their moving caravans resemble the opening credits of the television sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“We deliver this stuff in a bunch of pickup trucks, and the guys who help us are skilled at packing the stuff up tight,” said Ms. Ballweg, 56. “Furniture is stacked up high and tied every which way.”

In an effort to quash a teacher shortage in Baltimore, city school officials have recruited approximately 300 educators from the Philippines to fill vacancies within the school system in the past two years.

Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore have reached out to the Filipino teachers with clothing drives, welcoming religious services, home-cooked meals and transportation as they settle into their new homes.

“The people in the Catholic churches have made us feel right at home here in Baltimore,” said Maria Lourdes Salcedo, a special education teacher at Fort Worthington Elementary School who was among the first Filipino educators to arrive in the city. “They have done so much to help us build community. We’re so grateful.”

St. John parishioner Pat Loeffler, 66, had started a furniture collection ministry about three years ago to help mainly Harford County residents, who might have recently left a homeless shelter or had their homes damaged by fire.

Now she and Ms. Ballweg solicit furniture donations through their parish bulletins and word of mouth.

“A friend of mine told me about the Filipino teachers coming here to teach in the city schools,” said Ms. Loeffler of Forest Hill. “He said they had nothing to set up their homes. I knew we could help.”

Items they deliver to the teachers’ new homes include bedroom sets, sofas, tables, area rugs, lamps, silverware, dishes, holy crosses and Blessed Mother statues.

Whenever they have run out of a certain item to make each home complete, it seems as though God intervenes and they receive a call from a donor who bequeaths them with what is needed, Ms. Ballweg said.

“You ought to see what they do with the stuff we give them,” she said. “They make their homes look so nice and they are so very appreciative of the help. We have a lot of fun doing this.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.