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Relief agency needs $20K by month-end

Magdalene House co-founder Mike Niece fills up a bag of clothing for a Coastside resident at the charity organization's regular food and clothing giveaways.
By Jim Welte-Half Moon Bay Review--Photo by Mark Jordan

Mike and Kathy Niece admit to having tunnel vision for the past three years.

They also freely acknowledge that their single-mindedness may have contributed to the current financial woes of the Magdalene House, the Coastside home of the Catholic Worker movement, and their need to raise $20,000 by March 1.

But one might be willing to forgive that tunnel vision since the pair have spent nearly every waking hour in those three years providing food, clothing, money and shelter to the Coastside's poor and homeless, with nary a financial contribution from the more affluent residents of the area.

The three-year-old Magdalene House on Kelly Avenue, well known for its frequent giveaways of food and clothing, has also been helping the Coastside's Spanish-speaking agricultural and day laborers to feed their families and pay rent and utility bills. But now the organization is in its own financial turmoil.

For the three years since its February 2000 inception, the group has operated on subsidies from people and organizations affiliated with the Catholic Worker in Redwood City. But those subsidies aren't coming this year, Kathy Niece said, so the pair need to shift their long-stalled Coastside fund-raising efforts into overdrive.

"We've been doing outreach, but it hasn't been as focused as it should have been," she said. "We've spent nearly all of our time devoted to outreach, developing relationships with the people that we serve."

The organization's annual budget is around $40,000, according to Kathy Niece, nearly all of which goes toward providing direct services for the poor and homeless. The couple's Kelly Avenue home, which also serves as a shelter for a handful of needy Coastsiders, has already been purchased outright by a Catholic Worker benefactor, so utilities and related expenses on the home are the couple's only expenses beyond the services they provide.

In order to continue offering those services, the Nieces must raise around $20,000 by March 1, and are seeking financial donations from anyone who will help. While a short-term deadline looms, Kathy Niece said that a long-term plan is needed as well.

"Part of our problem is that we haven't gotten out to meet some of the community leaders and really make people aware of what we do for people," she said. "We are the only organization that offers the types of services that we do 24 hours a day. We can respond to people's needs at any time of the day, including evenings and weekends."

Despite the need to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time, Mike Niece said that he is optimistic that they can do just that.

"A lot of people have been responsive to try and help us figure out ways to raise the additional money," he said.

Two upcoming events could go a long way in helping the Magdalene House raise the funds.

On Sunday, the Latino community is hosting a third anniversary celebration for the Magdalene House at St. Timothy Catholic Church in San Mateo. Food for the event has been donated by Half Moon Bay Joe's and Three Amigos restaurants. There is no cost to attend, but a hat will be passed around to collect donations from attendees.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, an annual spaghetti feast to benefit the Magdalene House will be held in the gym at the St. Peter Catholic Church in Pacifica. More than 250 people showed up at last year's event, and all of the $2,700 in proceeds generated by the event went to the Magdalene House.

Coastsiders seeking to attend either event or to donate directly to the Magdalene House should call either Mike or Kathy Niece at 726-6606.


Copyright 2005Half Moon Bay Review and Pescadero Pebble.