AFTER HER MOTHER died of lung cancer in 2006, Cathy McVey looked for a way to honor her and continue a legacy of compassion.
So, she started Honey's Angels, a nonprofit that provides food and supermarket gift cards to families in need of extra help around the holidays.
This week, the organization will provide grocery gift cards to 50 needy families for Easter.
"My mom was caring and generous. She loved taking care of people," said McVey, who named the organization for her late mom, Helen "Honey" McVey. "She was always a great hostess, and she loved hosting big holiday meals."
McVey, 40, of Mayfair, said that when she was thinking up ways to help others, she settled on the idea of a food share for the holidays because it seemed the right thing to do for people who were struggling financially, emotionally or healthwise.
"My mom would always prepare a plate of food for a neighbor across the street, or an elderly uncle who lived around the corner," she said. One of the McVey children was always taking a plate of food to someone who needed it."
In 2006, the McVeys and a handful of friends fed 17 families, referred by churches, schools and social-service agencies, in the first year. Since then, they've expanded their efforts, and for the organization's 10-year anniversary this year, it is looking to serve 500 families, bringing the total number of households served to 2,000.
Meghan Aberkane, a widow who was referred to the organization through St. Bernard Parish, received help from Honey's Angels at Thanksgiving last year and said she is grateful for the help.
"My son Ryan has cerebral palsy and his father died six months ago. I really needed their help," said Aberkane, who will receive assistance this Easter and again at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"I got a turkey, stuffing, a pie," she said of the assistance she received at Thanksgiving. "It was awesome, they were so great."
Maureen Kolodziej, who sits on the board of directors for Honey's Angels and spearheads the marketing initiatives, acknowledged that it can be difficult for people to ask for help because of the culture of shame surrounding financial distress.
"No one should be ashamed, everyone has their own burdens; whether they be financial or emotional, we want to help," she said. "We can be very discreet about the family receiving food, and if they don't want people to see that they are getting food delivered, we can send grocery gift-cards in the mail."
She and McVey said their goal is to see Honey's Angels grow. Next month, the organization will launch its new website. It also has partnered with Broad Street Ministry to sponsor a Thanksgiving brunch on Nov. 25, where 400 to 500 people will be served.
"We started off locally but we would like to see it grow statewide," said Kolodziej. "We hope it grows into helping millions one day."