Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The first step to healthier eating for low-income families? Making it easier to get good food!

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When it comes to eating healthy, for low-income families there's a big question they often have to face: how far am I able to travel for fresh, affordable, and healthy food?

Local carrots for sale from the grand
opening on May 4!
According to the USDA, 23.5 million Americans live in a food desert - geographic areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (aka fresh fruits and veggies) is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are too far away. The problem only gets exacerbated if you depend on public transportation and limited income.

Catholic Charities, in conjunction with Miller Farms, is aiming to solve this problem in a food desert right in our backyard. Miller Farms, a longtime staple of southern Prince George's county, operates a weekly farmer’s market in the parking lot of Catholic Charities’ forthcoming Susan D. Mona Center in Prince George’s County Maryland. The idea is simple: provide affordable, healthy, and fresh fruits and vegetables to residents of southern Prince George’s County – including the growing group of low-income families turning to our new Mona Center for assistance.

While the final details of the Mona Center are still being finalized, we know it will eventually be a hub of services and space for the local community. And right now, every Wednesday afternoon and evening from 2-7 pm, it is a place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Look at those beautiful fruits!
“This is exactly what we want the Mona Center to be doing,” said Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities. “We want to be a community-center that brings people together, providing help to those who need it and creating a lasting bond among neighbors. People can always bond around food.”

The farmer's market will accept EBT and SNAP benefits but all residents of Prince George’s County are encouraged to stop by the Mona Center parking lot every Wednesday from 2 PM to 7 PM to pick up fresh, local food.  We hope to see you there!

Visit the Miller Farm Farmer’s Market


Where: Susan D. Mona Center parking lot

When: Every Wednesday, 2 pm to 7pm 

Why: To get delicious, fresh, and affordable food! 

Monday, May 2, 2016

$2 Million Dollars Raised for Catholic Charities

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On Saturday, April 30, the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel was filled with more than 1,000 people at the Catholic Charities Gala, laughing and dancing much like a large, albeit fancy, family reunion. The annual event is the most important night to fundraise for the 83 programs working locally and it did not disappoint. Gala Chair James V. Reyes announced the evening had raised $2,000,000!
Cardinal Wuerl shares his thanks for our supporters

But the highlight of the evening was watching three Catholic Charities clients who had the chance to greet Pope Francis share their story during a short video. Spontaneous applause broke out several times as stirring images of the Pope flashed across the room. Each client spoke of the excitement and peace at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they had experienced while getting help at Catholic Charities.

Amidst the tuxedos and gowns, the theme of the night was clear; Catholic Charities is able to help 120,000 men, women, and children each year because of the generous support of the community. Father John, James V. Reyes, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl each expressed their gratitude for the people who donate their time and their resources to help Catholic Charities reach the marginalized and poor in our Archdiocese.

Chair James V. Reyes (top left), Father John (top center)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (top middle) and honored guests
The funds raised by the Gala, considered “unrestricted”, meaning they can be plugged into any use needed, are vital for supporting many of the services that our clients could otherwise not afford to pay for. 

As Pope Francis said during his visit to us, "Charity is born of the call of a God who continues to knock on our door, the door of all people, to invite us to love, to compassion, to service of one another." It's times like the gala that remind us of all the people who answer this call every day. Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Quick Note of Thanks to Randy Wittman

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Today Randy Wittman was notified that he will not be returning as the head coach of the Washington Wizards next season, ending four-plus seasons as the coach. Now, I’m a Wizards fan, but I’m not the most savvy basketball fan – most of the X’s and O’s go right over my head and I’m happy to watch the eye-popping talent and athleticism on display.
Randy Wittman (left) with Wizards players delivering
Christmas gifts before the holidays.

But I do know a little something about charity, compassion and volunteerism. And I wanted to say a big thank you to Randy for always making time when the Wizards partnered with Catholic Charities (along with the outstanding folks at the Monumental Sports Foundation).

For the past three years, we’ve had some incredible opportunities where families being served by Catholic Charities have been able to meet and greet Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics players, either in the families’ homes or at the Verizon Center. And without fail, Randy Wittman always made time to greet our families and offer some kind words.

Last year, the Wizards invited wounded veterans and their families to attend and watch a full Wizards practice and then afterward join in with players and staff to do a Cup of Joe volunteer event with us. And again, I was struck by Coach Wittman’s compassion and interest to spend time with some of those who had given so much to our country. His graciousness was genuine.

Post-practice Cup of Joe with Wizards players and coaches!
All of these events took place during the season, by the way, when I know the coaching staff had many other priorities. Professional sports is obviously a high-pressure situation where a lot changes fast. Coaches and players come and go. I am just so thankful that with Monumental Sports, we had a coach who knew the value of giving back.

Best of luck to Coach Wittman on his next steps, and thanks for some really fun years as a basketball fan.



~Father John
President and CEO, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

You're hired! Catholic Charities partners with local employers for on-site interviews

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Monarc CEO John Bellingham interviews a prospective hire.
The line outside of our Spanish Catholic Center on a cold December morning formed several hours before the doors would open. Today was a special day – our Michael H. Kappaz Workforce Development Program was hosting a hiring event with Monarc Construction, where they would be conducting interviews on-site.

All morning and into the early afternoon, potential employees moved through a series of interviews with hiring managers and even Monarc Construction President John Bellingham himself. Others patiently waited, their resumes protected neatly.

By the end of the day, more than 100 men and women had gone through the interview process.

Interviews took place all morning.
Months later, the same space would be filled with hiring managers from CVS and clients from various Catholic Charities programs. Dressed in their business best, 20 men and women listened intently to the CVS hiring managers as they explained company culture, described positions available, and fielded questions. The hiring managers also explained the type of candidate CVS is looking for: someone with a smile who is willing to learn.

Down the hall, Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program students looked over their notes and textbooks as they waited to conduct mock interviews with the CVS hiring managers. Albeit a different field of work, the construction students are set to graduate in a few short weeks and need all the practice they can get with interviewing. Catholic Charities’ partnerships with companies, both local and nationally, expose clients to resources that would not normally be available to them.
CVS staff lead a hiring seminar giving our clients tips for
applying to work at their company.

This is what the Michael H. Kappaz Workforce Development Program hopes to do for thousands of DC and Maryland residents who need employment. Named for the late Michael H. Kappaz, a longtime benefactor of the Spanish Catholic Center who deeply believed in the power of employment and opportunity to change lives, his legacy lives on today.

From hands-on job training to wraparound supports to job search support and placement, the program aims to be a one-stop shop for employment. A major component of that program, however, is the partnerships we have with local employers ready to take on a good employee who is eager to work.

That’s where Susana Marino comes in. As Manager of Workforce Development, her job is to make that connection between employee and employer, making the final link from unemployment to self-sufficient.

“Developing and sustaining solid partnerships with employers is the lifeline of the Kappaz Program,” said Marino.  “We try to pay attention to employers wants and needs and forecast, develop and align the skills of our students to the needs of the market.” 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#DrivewithFrancis: Pope’s Fiat donated to Archdiocese and Catholic Charities

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During his time in Washington, DC, Pope Francis used two Fiat 500Ls to shuttle around to his meetings, including that time he visited Catholic Charities on September 24. We’ve now learned that both of those cars have been donated to the Archdiocese of Washington and  will be used to bring attention to all of the programs working to help people in the archdiocese, including us here at Catholic Charities!
Posing with the Fiat from the Pope's visit!

Of course, with a Pope who has put the poor front and center in his ministry, what else should we expect?

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has designated the two Fiats to be used to highlight the work of the local church, moonlighting in Catholic Charities programs and at events.

The Pope Fiats made their public debut on Monday, March 21 at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in time for a few photos and selfies during the evening commute home.

Keep your eye on #DrivewithFrancis or www.walkwithfrancis.org/fiat to see where the Pope’s ride will be heading next! 


Pope Francis waves before getting into his Fiat at the end of his visit to Catholic Charities.
(Photo: Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)




Monday, March 7, 2016

Father John: 5 Ways to Walk with Francis

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A neighbor is giving up chocolate. Your brother has stopped playing video games. A friend quit drinking soda. Sound familiar?

As we start the fourth week of Lent, many are focused on keeping their promise of giving up something during the 40 days of Lent. We think it's time to break the mold.

In his Lenten message this year, Pope Francis encouraged all to practice the works of mercy with our neighbors in need. Use Lent as an opportunity to continue to Walk with Francis by praying, serving or acting in your community. Don’t know where to start? 

We sat down with Father John who shared five ways to Walk with Francis this Lent.

1. Walk into Your Pantry 
From Father John: "One in eight DC residents will face hunger this year. This weekend and next, parishes and schools will be collecting food items for the Lenten Food Drive." Take this opportunity to donate canned goods and non-perishable items to help combat hunger in the community. Here's all your info on the Lenten Food Drive.

2. Walk the Stations of the Cross
From Father John: "Walking the Stations of the Cross reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice and love for us. Adding prayer to your routine will help you refocus and get in touch with your faith." Consider committing to pray for our clients here

3. Walk into Your Closet
From Father John: "We know March is a hot and cold month here in DC! For many of our homeless neighbors or low-income families, they are still battling the cold on the streets." Start your spring cleaning early and select a few items to share with someone who needs warmth. Click here for info on our coat closet

4. Walk on the Streets
Father John: "Start walking the streets with your eyes wide open and see people who are otherwise invisible; the poor, the downtrodden, the lonely. Start simple: give a hello and a smile that says, “You have dignity and I care about you.” If you can’t help or don’t feel comfortable, that’s okay. The best help are the structured programs and the professional staff who run them and conduct outreach often. But I hear from many folks who are living on the streets or in a shelter how hard it is to be homeless and also feel invisible." Consider getting started by volunteering at St. Maria's Meals. 

5. Walk in the Shoes of Another
Father John: "True solidarity requires sacrifice when we give. If you’re going to splurge on something this week, thing about skipping it and making a donation with that money instead. Make sure you feel it and know exactly why you are doing so. That’s the power of Lent." Make a donation to Catholic Charities to start your Lenten sacrifice

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hoyas Honor Lifelong Georgetown Fan Sr. Mary Louise Wessell

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For most of her adult life, Sr. Mary Louise Wessell has followed season after season of Georgetown University Men’s Basketball in the same way: by tuning in on the radio to legendary broadcaster Rich Chvotkin.
Sr. Wessell gives Coach John Thompson III
a hug before the game.

Sr. Wessell, a sister of the Congregation of St. Joseph, tuned in to the games on the radio because, “Rich really knew what he was talking about.” Over more than three decades, she’s heard some of Rich’s most classic “Hoyas Win!” calls.

In the early 1980s, during her work researching her doctoral degree in philosophy with a focus on medical ethics at Georgetown, she welcomed a young Patrick Ewing, already a superstar, to the campus when they crossed paths in the parking lot. Sr. Wessell stands about 5’3. Even as a freshman, Patrick Ewing towered at 7’0.

Sr. Wessell’s ministry as a nun and a nurse led her to Catholic Charities, where she was tasked with running newly formed Archdiocesan Health Care Network in 1984 as a way to coordinate specialized medical care on a pro bono basis for those without insurance or the means to pay for their care. The program is still going, last year serving more than 1,600 patients.

Sr. Wessell with legendary Hoyas
Broadcaster Rich Chvotkin
Later she helped open our Tenant’s Empowerment Network (TENProgram) to help homeless families in southeast DC, a program she leads to this day. The TEN Program provides a family with their own apartment and highly-focused support from staff. Most of our families are coming to the TEN Program from a shelter and the TEN team aims to transition families to stable living over the course of two years. Last year, the program helped 52 parents and 77 children.

[Donate to the TEN Program to celebrate the work of Sr. Mary Louise Wessell!]

This brings us to Saturday, February 20, when Georgetown University honored Sr. Mary Louise Wessell before tip-off at the men’s basketball game against nationally ranked Xavier. Before the game, Sr. Wessell had the chance to meet Coach John Thompson III and was interviewed by Rich Chvotkin for the halftime show broadcast. She even got a chance to pet Jack the Bulldog, who cruises across the court on a skateboard each game.

Washington Wizards star Otto Porter, who
played at Georgetown, signs
an autograph for Sr. Wessell
Just before tip-off, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Dan O’Neil presented Sr. Mary Louise Wessell with a game ball autographed by Coach Thompson III at center court while her work helping the homeless families of Washington, DC was shared with the thousands in attendance.


Sr. Mary Louise said later she loved the day and the opportunity to see the team up close, but admitted she was uncomfortable being the center of attention. “But I know this kind of spotlight helps keep all of our families who are living at TEN or elsewhere in the front of people’s minds, so I don’t mind helping to do that,” she said. “And while the Hoyas lost this game, I always enjoy the chance to watch these young men play in-person.”

Are you proud of Sr. Mary Louise and her work? Make a donation right now to the TEN program!