The Apels and Activism

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The Apels and Activism

Thomas Apel, Co-Editor in Chief

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Every Wednesday, at 10:00, Dennis and Tensie Apel arrive at the Santa Maria food bank to gather a weekly supply of hundreds of food items, including rice, beans, vegetables, and canned foods.  They then both deliver the food to Guadalupe the same morning, sort it into garbage bags, and pass it out to those who show up; afterwards, delivering it to those who cannot.

This weekly, five hour long food distribution is only one of the several routines that the Apels partake in at their community service building in Guadalupe. They are a part of a movement called the Catholic Worker, a network of houses across the United States that are focused on serving the poor.

With the help of only one other community member, Dennis and Tensie Apel work to help the struggling lower class on the central coast, which mainly consists of immigrant farm worker families.

“We feel that there is a great need on the central coast among farm workers who are not paid adequately to support their families,” says Tensie. “We try to augment their income by providing clothes, food, and medical care because of our understanding of the message to love and serve our neighbors.”

Along with the food distribution, Dennis and Tensie run a weekly clothes distribution and a free clinic. Tensie translates for the clinic, while the workers, who are mostly suffering from untreated work-related injuries and diseases, are seen by local doctors who volunteer their time every Thursday night.

The two receive no compensation for their work, relying only on donations and social security to support them and their family. “Our biggest reward is the relationship with the people we serve, and the comfort that we’ve brought into their lives,” says Dennis.

The Catholic Worker is not the Apels’ only job. Dennis and Tensie also serve as parents to two teenage children, one in college and the other in high school. The older of the two, Rozella, has a history with activism similar to her parents. In high school, Rozella served as president of the local non-profit Conservation Club, helping protect the central coast environment. Now attending Swarthmore University in Pennsylvania, Rozella is majoring in peace and conflict studies, and like her parents, is extremely enthusiastic about the global political climate. “The positives of raising a family in an activism-oriented environment include being able to impart a sense of hope on our children that there are doable actions that respond to the great needs in the world,” says Tensie.

The Apels’ efforts in the community have not gone unrecognized. In addition to awards from Bill Deneen and the Santa Barbara Independent, they have been featured in several newspapers and magazines. “We appreciate publicity because it lets people know about the work we do,” admits Tensie, “but what’s really important to us is that the work gets done, whether it’s recognized or not.”