Friday, January 6, 2017

Wow! What a finish to 2016!

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With the help of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors, check out this infographic for some of the key ways we helped families in our local community from Thanksgiving to Christmas. If this inspires you, we need your help in 2017! Happy new year! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

12 Days of Hope: Feeding the Spirit

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This is the final post in our 12 Days of Hope stories. We hope it gave you a wide view of the many stories of hope that happen here at Catholic Charities every single day of the year. Please, if you can, make a donation to help us carry out this work in 2017! Merry Christmas!

By Msgr. John Enzler
Advent is a busy time for all of us. We try to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and lives, and we also spend time on all of the other things we need to do – or think we need to do – like shopping, sending cards, baking, decorating and so on. We are also busy doing more socializing at this time of year with office parties, special dinners with friends and family, open houses, and events at our parishes and in our neighborhoods.

It’s nice to have these opportunities to enjoy time with family, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners and neighbors. While I sometimes have trouble making all of the events, I try my best because every gathering is a chance to see those who have been a part of my life or are part of what I do now at Catholic Charities.

As I enjoy my time with people, I think about how many of our clients do not enjoy the same opportunities for fellowship. They don’t receive invitations to holiday parties or social events. For them, it’s a matter of survival – trying to find food, warm clothing and a place to sleep at night.

Catholic Charities has a couple of big events around this time every year that try to feed the spirit as well as the body. Both are uplifting for our homeless clients, and perhaps even more so for those trying to make a difference.

The first happened on Wednesday when we gathered inside of our headquarters with 400 of our homeless neighbors for an awesome Christmas dinner. Through Catholic Charities Enterprises we are able to provide a special meal that goes beyond what we can do day-to-day in shelters and food kitchens. The tables are covered in table cloths with silverware and nice plates, and each guest left with a gift card to get a pair of shoes from Payless Shoes thanks to Jim and Cece Koons. It is a wonderful event that has become a highlight for our homeless friends.

Each room becomes a dining area for our clients, and the staff and volunteers go all out getting everything ready. Each department decorates a different area of the building, and it is special to see the entire building so beautifully and festively decorated for our Christmas dinner.

One of the things I especially love about this event is that people can sit in smaller groups and are joined by volunteers who take the time to visit with them and truly enjoy a meal together. There is a strong sense of family – the family of God. We gather as brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and religion, race, income or anything else doesn’t matter.

Finally, I have to tell you about our Angel Tree. Through the support of hundreds of donors, we provided almost 1,000 children with Christmas gifts this year. Most of these children are part of families being helped by Catholic Charities programs in DC, Montgomery County and southern Maryland. But, due to such incredible generosity, we were able to also help 90 additional kids whose parents called us desperate for help providing a gift.

More than helping meet immediate physical needs, these events are reminders of God’s love that breaks into our world in the person of Jesus among us. This love is experienced by those being served as well as those who are serving. One of the nicest comments we’ve received in recent years came from the young daughter of one of our leaders, who said that the best part of her Christmas was not the presents she received but the chance to help serve and spend time with the homeless at our Christmas dinner.

That’s a great lesson for all of us. By all means we should enjoy the season and everything it brings – time with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, and celebrating the birth of our Savior. May we also make time this season and throughout the year to open our arms and hearts to those who are less fortunate. I promise you that every time you make a difference for someone in need, Jesus will be born again in their heart and in yours.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

12 Days of Hope: Breaking free from an abusive relationship

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When you first meet Zanetta her confidence and self-assuredness pulls you in. It’s shocking to then hear her speak of a time when she felt powerless, scared, and alone. Zanetta was in an abusive relationship for several years. She feared for her life. But like many men and women in toxic relationships, Zanetta felt trapped.

Then she had as she calls it a ‘light bulb moment’ when she decided enough was enough.  She’ll tell you it wasn’t easy to walk away but she slowly started to re-build the strength to be on her own and thrive. Leaving the relationship was like starting from scratch so Zanetta turned to Catholic Charities for help on many things, from legal advice to transitional housing while she searched for employment. 

Instead of having to go from organization to organization for difference services, Zanetta was able to get comprehensive help at Catholic Charities and be able to fully focus on herself. We'd tell you how it paid off but let Zanetta show you herself:

Friday, December 23, 2016

12 Days of Hope: She overcame 50 years of addiction to be here today

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On one hand, Denise’s story is one of the very best we can share on how all of our housing programs work together to help someone overcome homelessness and addiction. On the other hand, it’s a story unique to Denise, a testament to her own personal determination.

Starting at the age of nine, Denise says she started to drink. She would sneak leftover drinks as she helped her parents clean up after they hosted friends for parties. As she describes it, she spent the next 50 years “drinking and drugging.”

Denise is quick to point out that she was always able to get a job. The challenge was staying sober and focused before she lost the job. Eventually, the wear and tear of such an erratic lifestyle wore her down.

“I said enough,” Denise said. “I was tired of it and I needed to get out of that environment.”  So, Denise put her belongings in storage, left her apartment, and entered a rehab program. It was the start of a long journey toward sobriety, with many pitfalls along the way.

She was in and out of programs a few times, often trying to find the one that fit her best. She came first to Catholic Charities Harriet Tubman program before she was enrolled in Catholic Charities Mt. Carmel House.

Mt. Carmel House is a longer-term program that places homeless adult women in their own room within the building and then spends time helping them focus on what they need to live independently. For Denise, it was the right environment for her to maintain her sobriety and maintain a barrier between her new life and her old, more destructive one.

Today, Denise has been sober for several years. She feels free. She lives in yet another Catholic Charities housing program, called a single room occupancy program, that is considered the final step on the road to independence. She hopes to have her own place, maybe as soon as 2017.

Along the way, she experienced what is known as the “continuum of care” in housing – shelter, transitional, SRO – aimed to help a person overcome homelessness and the underlying causes, before living on their own again.

And while Denise knows she’s accomplished much, she also knows where she still wants to go and she isn’t resting or waiting. 

Feeling inspired? Make a donation to all of the programs who helped Denise on her journey:
Rock Creek Church SRO (under McKenna)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

12 Days of Hope: Forging a New Path After Incarceration

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It's hard to catch up with Lyle. He's extremely dedicated to his work at fellow nonprofit Bread for the City, where he works full-time. And, meeting Lyle now, you wouldn't guess he spent a portion of his life serving time in prison or living a life, that as he described it, was simply destructive. 

Lyle remembers his younger years as a time when he was making bad choices without much direction or thought for the future. Eventually, his reckless choices caught up with him and he spent many years in and out of incarceration.

In Washington, DC, the recidivism rate, or number of times someone with a criminal record turns back to crime again, remains stubbornly high. Our Welcome Home Re-Entry Program aims to reach this vulnerable group of people, many of whom exit incarceration with almost no resources or family to turn to. 

We help people like Lyle all of the time, by providing case management support and often pairing them with a mentor to help them navigate the challenges of daily life. 

In Lyle's case, it made all of the difference. 

For Lyle, the mentorship and resources from the program gave him the strength to turn his life around for the better. We met Lyle after asking him to share some advice on a video that plays in the lobby at Catholic Charities, seeking to encourage someone else who might be facing the same problems Lyle overcame:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12 Days of Hope: The Power of a Meal

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Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and President of Catholic Charities, writes about our annual Christmas Dinner for the Homeless. 

Tonight, as we have for the past few years, Catholic Charities offices at 924 G Street, NW, will host hundreds of our neighbors who are homeless inside for a lovely Christmas dinner.

We’ll serve a heaping plate of food – turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and of course pie – and then each guest will be given a coupon for a free pair of shoes.

It’s a few hours filled with the warmth of family, laughter, lots and lots of people enjoying food, and some shared time between our volunteers and our guests. Thanks to my friend Jim Koons, each person will leave with a backpack full of warm clothing and personal hygiene items as well as a gift card to Payless Shoes to get a free pair of shoes.

I know, of course, that once the meal is over, our guests head back out into the cold night to sleep in a shelter or maybe on the street if they choose. The fact that we provide a meal or a free pair of shoes doesn’t do much to change their situation.

But, in my five years here at Catholic Charities, I’ve come to understand deeply the power of a meal in the larger push to end homelessness one person at a time.

When we serve a meal on the sidewalk, or invite folks inside our building, it creates a meal time much like family dinner at home for many of us, I suspect. And then, between bites of food or while someone is in line or waiting after, you can start to have conversations.

You start to get to know each other. They get to know me. I get to know them. We see each other each week or once a month. And slowly, we start a relationship that can often help lead someone who has been isolated or out in the cold for years back toward a healthier and safer life.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, is a regular attendee at tonight’s event. And I know he comes because it’s a chance for him to minister to the poor in that same family-style setting. I love seeing the smile on his face. I love knowing that despite all the important work he has and the many different directions he is pulled in, he always makes time to come visit us and have dinner with someone who is homeless.

That’s the power of a meal.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Msgr. John Enzler
President and CEO
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Monday, December 19, 2016

12 Days of Hope: A new job just in time for Christmas!

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When Liz lost her job last year, she thought as a high school graduate and a hard-worker she would bounce back and find employment quickly. But as the weeks of unemployment turned into months, Liz continued to apply for jobs without any success. Her son Alonso, 20, worked part-time to help but he was also seeking full-time employment to help him save money to follow his dream of going to college.  

It was through a friend of a friend Liz heard about Catholic Charities Spanish Catholic Center Employment Services. It seemed like she had tried everything and so she hoped this time would be different. “They started helping me right away and they told me to stay focused, that they would help me and Alonso find good jobs.”
Liz and Alonso celebrate
their recent employment!

While the employment services team worked on connecting Liz and Alonso to employment, the mother and son also found much needed help through the other services provided at the center. Liz said it was blessing to be able to come to the center and receive food, toiletries and SmarTrip cards while she continued to search for work. It can be embarrassing to ask for help, Liz said, but they appreciated all the help they got.

Just in time for the upcoming holidays, the employment team connected Liz and Alonso to jobs at Ronald Reagan International Airport, stocking inventory for the airlines. “I was patient, persistent and I just kept on praying,” said Liz. Alonso hopes this income will help him save up enough money for college and Liz is thankful to be able to provide for her and her son again. 

After more than a year without a steady income, this job has also brought Liz and Alonso a Christmas miracle: their first paycheck will come the day before Christmas Eve. 

Feeling inspired? 

Make a tax-deductible gift to the Spanish Catholic Center right now.