LATHROP – Luz Juarez knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel when she was organizing the Harvest Festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
On one hand, the event truly served a festival to bless the harvest in the agricultural rich South County. But it also served as a fundraiser for the parish to construct their first ever church building – hoping that the event would bring in enough money to allow dirt to be turned within the next year.
Seeing the turnout, and realizing that a longtime dream is so close to becoming a reality, Juarez said, helped make the event that much more special.
“We started out as a parish over at the LOF Hall and then moved over to the Lathrop Elementary cafeteria before we bought this land and built this multipurpose room that we use today,” said Juarez. He’s been a member of the congregation at the site for 25 years. “Now we’re so close to being able to have that new home.”
The festival – located at 16200 Cambridge Drive – continues today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
With a variety of food booths, games, and a beer garden, those in attendance were able to buy tokens to enjoy the variety of offerings – which later included live music.
Parishoners made up the bulk of the early attendees, but according to John Wall, the event also serves as a community event that brings in people from the surrounding neighborhoods that come to celebrate and help foster a sense of community spirit.
“It’s an event that brings a lot of people together and attracts people from the neighborhood which makes it unique,” Wall said. “We still have our blessing for the harvest season, but it’s also a chance for the church members to come together outside of the service as a family. Everything we do here is a 100 percent donation to our church, and that’s great towards the goals that we have.”
Just the day before a 2011 Toyota Corolla CE was delivered for a raffle fundraiser that will culminate on Christmas Day – with $20 tickets giving people the opportunity to win the car.
It’s just one more step towards the construction of the new church. Juarez believes that will allow the congregation a chance to continue the family atmosphere that they’ve been able to maintain throughout the years.
“We’re a small parish – a family. I’ve been to larger parishes that just feel so different,” she said. “I’ve walked into other churches that are beautiful they feel so cold because nobody greets anybody or hugs anybody. That’s what we do here and that’s what we’re going to continue when we open that new site. That’s why we’re here today, and we’re hoping that when everybody comes back tomorrow – the big day for us – we’ll be able to raise even more money.”