Tuesday, January 27, 2015

20 years later, a client writes to say thank you

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We received a very touching note from a client who stayed at our McKenna House program way back in 1994. That's right, 21 years ago.

Michael had been drinking or using drugs since the age of 13. By the time he made his way to the McKenna house, he was 33 years old. McKenna House is a program dedicated to helping single, homeless men recover from addiction, find a job, and build structure and purpose back into their lives. It is still in operation today.

Michael shared with us that it took him four total tries to finally beat addiction. But he gave tremendous thanks and credit to the staff of the McKenna House for believing in him and giving him the confidence in himself, as well as pushing him hard to save his money and work hard. He left the program sober, employed, and with more than $3,000 saved in the bank. He said it was the longest he had ever gone sober since he was 13. Feeling inspired? You can make a donation directly to the McKenna House right now.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Redskins' Darrel Young, #36, Makes a Play for our Annual Coat Drive

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Swaths of burgundy and gold were bursting out of the multipurpose room of St. Francis Xavier Church, where our Joseph’s Coats of Many Colors Coat Closet is located. And for a good reason.

On January 22, The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, along with fullback Darrel Young, #36, donated more than 40 heavy duty coats (each costing upwards of $200), boxes of thermal shirts and sweatshirts, as well as a $10,000 check to help sustain the coat drive in the future. 

These donations to Joseph’s Coats of Many Colors Coat Drive and Coat Closet, which last provides winter gear to local men, women and children, are a huge boost in making sure everyone in need can stay warm. Last year, the coat drive collected and distributed over 9,000 coats.

"Partnerships like the one we have with the Redskins keep our programs going," Father John said. "We wouldn't be able to serve the number of many people as we do without their support."

Darrel Young, along with Mary Kellar of the Kellar Family Foundation, presented the check to Father John Enzler and Deacon Jim Nalls.

“You see so many people on the street without jackets, and so many kids who are cold who go to school without coats. It’s cold up here [in the Washington, DC region], so any opportunity I have to help them out with a coat or jacket, I will,” Young said.

Young, who was also named the Redskins’ Man of the Year for community involvement and service, wants to make an impact in the lives of the people he meets.

“You want them walk away and think, ‘they made me feel better about who I am today,’” Young said.

The Redskins coats also come with a touch of nostalgia – many of the garments donated were once used by players themselves. Future coat owners may find that they are donning a coat formerly belonging to one of their favorite sports figures.

Have a coat to donate or know someone who could benefit from a coat this winter? There’s still time!

We’re collecting coats on Friday, February 13 at St. Patrick’s Church (4101 Norbeck Road) in Rockville and at Catholic Charities (855 Main Street) in Prince Frederick. Our coat closet will be open on Saturday, February 14, in the multipurpose room at St. Francis Xavier Church.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Just in time: New shoes as the first snow of 2015 falls

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To be honest, we weren’t sure if anyone would show up.

Back on December 22, we hosted a Christmas Dinner for our St. Maria’s Meals Program (formerly referred to as our Dinner Van Program) clients, served inside at our headquarters at 924 G Street, NW. Two generous donors, Jim and Cece Koons agreed to purchase a pair of shoes for everyone who came our Christmas dinner. Dinner guests received a voucher to Payless ShoeSource to redeem those new shoes.

Now, on the date of redemption – January 6 – the first snowfall of the season was in full blast. And yet, at 8:30 am, on a day when our low-barrier shelters were going to be staying open all day due to the weather, there was a line of men and women waiting around the corner at the shoe store at 12th and G Streets, NW.

“I woke up this morning and said, ‘Lord, just hold off on that snow until I can get a new pair of shoes’,” one gentleman said with a big grin on his face. Another man said, “Just in time!” as he lifted his worn pair to show a few sizable holes in the bottom.

Staff went literally 'above and beyond' to help out their first
customers of the day.
More than 65 people were able to get a new pair of shoes and socks from the store, who partnered with us in the endeavor. We owe a big shout out of thanks to the staff of the Payless ShoeSource, who though short-staffed due to the snow, were very warm and welcoming. At least two of the staff had commutes of more than an hour and a half to make it in time to open the store. And of course, none of it would be possible without the generosity of Jim and Cece Koons who bought each pair of shoes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas is here already?!

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Special Christmas Post by Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were sitting down for Thanksgiving? Time flies when you’re having fun.

As we prepare for Christmas, to head to Mass or spend time with our family and loved ones, I am taking a moment to stop, and look back on an incredible month. It flew by in a blur of gifts, meals, and laughter.

With 65 programs, there’s no shortage of Christmas celebrations around here. Our Kennedy School and Child Development Center, which both work with young people who have a developmental delay, each enjoyed celebrations and visits with Santa. They also held a wonderful Christmas pageant, featuring kids of each grade contributing, singing, dancing and laughing. Seeing the smiles of those kids will melt your heart.

The celebration of Christmas at our Refugee Center has a different feel to it. This is a program working with people who have fled their home for political, personal or even religious persecution. For many of them, this was their first time experiencing Christmas in America. Our Refugee Center staff created a warm environment over delicious food and I know it felt like home for many of the refugees as they laughed, sang some carols and more.

Several of our families were lucky enough to receive gifts directly from players on the Washington Redskins, Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. These teams and their players set a great example in our community, as well as create unforgettable memories by visiting some of our families in their homes or hosting them for a special day where the teams practice.

Our staff were all able to get together for some much needed rest and relaxation over delicious food at our annual Christmas party, which always feels like a BIG family reunion.

Our Angel Tree Program reached more than 700 children with donated toys and clothing thanks to hundreds of generous donors who bought and delivered toys. On Monday and Tuesday, our McCarrick Family Center distributed gifts to more than 500 families living in the nearby neighborhood. So awesome to see happy parents who have been relieved of the stress of providing Christmas gifts to their little ones.

And finally, we ended our celebration on Monday with a wonderful and delicious dinner for our homeless neighbors here at our home offices at 924 G St. With beautiful table settings and warm plates of turkey, green beans, gravy and mashed potatoes plus dessert, more than 200 people came for a holiday meal.


It feels like the perfect way to finish an incredible year, and I thank each of you for your part in making our community a better place for every family. Now, I pray each of you find peace and joy in this wonderful holiday, as we finish up the hustle and bustle and turn our eyes to the star over Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas!

~Fr. John

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Gifts Given to 500 Montgomery County Families

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It was 12:25 pm just three days before 12/25/2014 and the line at our McCarrick Family Center was long as parents anxiously waited in hopes of picking out a good present for each of their children.

With a room full of gifts donated to Catholic Charities to distribute to qualifying low-income families, volunteers guided each family through the room, selecting one toy for each of their children. Bikes, action figures, dolls, books, soccer balls and more awaited their choice and parents took their time shopping and evaluating. A volunteer, dressed as jolly old St. Nick, walked up and down the line, greeting children and wishing them a merry Christmas.

One father, still wearing his mechanic’s shirt, happily wheeled a bicycle out while his wife pushed a stroller behind with a doll. Another woman held up two different learning toys for a three-year-old. Every parent was able to leave with a stuffed animal.

A magician made balloon animals and volunteers played Wii bowling with children while their parents waiting in line. Local nonprofits set up tables as a resource fair to provide parents with assistance in many ways. Over the course of two days, more than 500 families who had applied for assistance through Montgomery County were expected to come, seeking help. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

We shipped 10,000 thanksgiving turkeys to local families - thanks to 1,000 volunteers.

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Guest Post by Mike Gehring

The scene at the SHARE Food Network on Friday, November 21 can only be described as organized chaos. Picture a large warehouse, decorated with banners and positive posters covering its far wall. Below that, a long row of tall, wooden tables runs the length of the room. At each table, a volunteer is ready to hand out potatoes, frozen fish, onions, a box of stuffing or any other of several food items.
Standing at the end of row of tables are boxes and boxes of frozen turkeys – tens of thousands of turkeys. For two days, thousands more volunteers come through and pick-up orders of food packages – this month, all of them Thanksgiving meals for a family.

Welcome to Thanksgiving at the SHARE Food Network. Over the course of November 21-22, more than 10,000 thanksgiving dinners were distributed to customers across DC, Maryland, Virginia and even West Virginia.  

One gentleman, dressed smartly in his work clothing, took a long lunch break to pickup 110 turkey meals that would be given out at his church. He moved down the line, stacking on boxes, grabbing fruit and checking off his list before sliding a very full cart to the loading bay.
What’s in a food package? Customers who purchased the $40 turkey package received 10-14 lb. turkey with fresh seasonal produce such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, celery, apples, oranges, stuffing mix, elbow macaroni, a holiday pie, and 4-5 lbs. of meats/fish to stock the freezer. Compared to prices in the grocery store, that package saves our customers 50-60% on their food.

That’s right, we said customers. Saving around 50 percent on their groceries.
The easiest way to understand SHARE is to think of it as a grocery store that sells three food package options once a month, every month. We buy the food from the same wholesale companies selling to your local grocery store. The difference is we shop for the bargains or excess food that these suppliers need to sell, and then we ask thousands of volunteers to help get us the orders at their church, school, military outfit, workplace or community center.

One weekend each month, they all come to the warehouse, help us box up the food, help load it into the vans, cars, and trucks, and take it back home to feed hungry families.

SHARE is one of the best ways to help low-income families have a proactive hand in being helped. It may be a small difference to most of us, but the power found in being able to provide for your family, even on a limited budget, can be very empowering.
The unique model of SHARE offers nutritious food to anyone – you, me, a single mother of three struggling to put food on the table, a disabled army veteran, Michael Jordan, Bono, Taylor Swift, or anyone else who eats food. The same goes for volunteers – we have them as young as five and as seasoned as 90.

SHARE was started way back in April of 1990 in partnership with the Knights of Malta. Today, the SHARE Network moves more than 350,000 pounds of food each month to hungry customers and works with 273 locations around the region to distribute the food (that’s your workplace, church, or other gathering spot)!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Service as strong as ever as the Annual Caritas Awards honor a few of the most dedicated volunteers

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Guest Post by Mike Gehring

We’re buzzing about a new number: 8,764.

That’s the number of people who volunteered with Catholic Charities last year, one of the highest totals we’ve ever been blessed enough to have. On Thursday, October 23, we held our annual Caritas Awards to honor a few of those volunteers who went above and beyond in their service.
Held at the beautiful Pepco Edison Place Art Gallery in downtown Washington, DC, seven volunteers received recognition for their dedicated service to our programs, each receiving a personalized medal presented by Msgr. John Enzler:

Mauro Farinelli
James Vandross
Juliet Orzal
Elizabeth Meers
Dr. Marc Connell
Wanda Sims for Xi Sigma Omega AKA
Brian Stolarz

Each volunteer was nominated by the program that they have volunteered with, and each brought a sense of humility and gratitude for what they have found in meeting new people and bridging beyond themselves to meet and get to know someone else.

Msgr. Enzler and Wanda Sims, recipient of the Father John O'Connor Award
Wanda Sims, received the Father John O'Connor Award for Empowerment for her involvement with the Dorothy Day Shelter.   

Dorothy Day is a transitional shelter for homeless women over the age of 18, where clients' needs and problems are complicated and many.  Wanda Sims has been involved with the Dorothy Day shelter for over 20 years.

"I get much more back from the people I work with at Dorothy Day than I could ever give,” Wanda said.

Her group, Xi Sigma Omega AKA, has long provided gifts, meals, and more to the women of the transitional housing program.

A young woman Wanda worked with at Dorothy Day never achieved her GED high school equivalency diploma.  After months of encouragement and support the young woman agreed to begin the process, but only if Wanda would go back to school and get her MBA.  Wanda is proud to say both Wanda and her Dorothy Day client graduated together.

MJ Morrow, Msgr. Geno Baroni Award recipient Brian Stolarz, Msgr. John Enzler and Anna Stolarz
While accepting his Caritas Award, Brian Stolarz an attorney who volunteers for the Catholic Charities Legal Network, said, "My highest calling as an attorney is the work I do for my clients at Catholic Charities." Brian’s work, along with that of several other recipients, demonstrates the key role professionals in the legal and medical field play in helping Catholic Charities serve more than 120,000 people last year.

Ollie Johnson (right) presents Caritas Award to James Vandross (left)
James Vandross’ service at the SHARE Food Network is a testimony to the nature of volunteers to say yes and have faith. James first stepped in when a longtime SHARE volunteer at his church became too ill to keep volunteering. Without knowing much, James jumped straight into managing the logistics and coordination of preparing large, monthly affordable food packages, becoming integral to the operation of the program.

In his closing remarks for the evening, Rev. Mario Dorsonville said, “The Mission of Catholic Charities is to create a culture of love, joy, and hope inspired by the person of Jesus Christ. As we recognize the efforts of our volunteers, we want to thank you for the work you do towards creating this culture. Let’s continue to find a common path so we can move from the culture of indifference referenced by Pope Francis to a culture of awareness.”

If you’re like us and feeling inspired by the example of each of these volunteers, head on over to our Volunteer Page and find the opportunity for you.