Friday, July 18, 2014

Request to help restock our food pantry shelves

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Guest Post by Tiffany Tan, Program Manager for our McCarrick Family Center
The McCarrick Family Center of Catholic Charities in Silver Spring, MD seeks your assistance in restocking our food pantry shelves. Approximately one year ago, we revised our food pantry system from giving clients pre-packaged bags of food to allowing clients to shop in the pantry and pick out their own food items.

As consumers, we have the choice of what to purchase at the grocery store, and we wanted to give our clients the same right and dignity. The outcome a year later has been a success as we’ve been able to serve a larger number of individuals and families, connect low-income residents with our services and additional services in the community, and our clients have appreciated the opportunity to shop for their food. 

Each new client who comes for food first meets with a case worker to assess his/her situation to see if we can address needs around housing, medical/mental, social, family, legal, and/or financial. Having a choice food pantry has become a great anchor program to attract new clients. 

However, the number of clients continues to grow and, particularly during the summer months, the food donations decrease. You can see in the chart to the right we experienced an increase in the number of households who have come for services (blue line) and the number of visits to the food pantry (red line). In June 2014, we had 181 clients shop in the pantry. While we receive food from the Capital Area Food Bank and are committed to picking up fresh produce from them once a week, many of our staple items are gone. Some shelves are bare. We are now even out the basics such as pasta, spaghetti sauce, and cereal. 

We ask for your help if you are able to give food or a monetary donation for us to shop at the Capital Area Food Bank (at $.19/lb.) one-time, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. You can donate in-person or via our secure webpage.

Our staple items most in need include:

  • Beans (canned & dry)
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned potatoes
  • Cereal & oatmeal
  • Chef Boyardee
  • Instant cups of soup
  • Jelly
  • Mac & cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Muffin/cake mix
  • Pasta
  • Pasta & rice side dishes
  • Rice (white and brown)
  • Snacks (crackers, kid’s snacks, puddings)
  • Spaghetti/pasta sauce

We can pick up donations from you or food can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm and until 8pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. We are located at 12247 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20902. Please contact me with any questions at 301-942-1790 ext. 131. Thank you in advance for your donation.

God Bless,

Tiffany Tan
Program Manager

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hammers, Nails, Solar Panels: the journey to a new career starts here

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Guest Post by Allysha Sneed

On Saturday, June 7, Robert Lancaster, along with 18 other students walked across the stage to receive certificates of completion from Catholic Charities Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction Program. He wore a bright blue cap and gown and walked in to Pomp & Circumstance playing for the assembled family and friends.

For Robert, the moment represented another step in his journey to a full-time career. He had been unable to find a steady job for months, despite having his HVAC and plumbing certifications. His goal was to become a certified general electrician, but he needed a start. The Green Construction Program provided that opportunity.

For more than 10 years, the program has provided intense 12-week training classes to equip students with the fundamentals of starting a career in construction. Taught by bilingual teachers and offering a 15:1 student to teacher ratio, the program sees 70 percent of its graduates either gain employment or pursue further education from each class in the first month after graduation.

Robert, with tools, ready to work.
Celia Sterling, the program administrator, credits the success of the program to both the teachers and her students for their dedication to starting a new career. Several years ago, the program expanded its curriculum to incorporate more environmentally sustainable practices in an effort to stay competitive in the job market. Students now learn solar panel installation, weatherization techniques and more to help buildings minimize their energy usage.

Through a partnership with Montgomery College students are able to attend hands on workshops including a 20-hour electricity training course and a 14-hour job readiness course, “Communication Skills and Fit Relationships.” The soft skills of succeeding in a modern workplace can be just as valuable to the students as some of the hard knowledge they obtain.

Just two weeks after graduation Robert had the opportunity to see how prepared he was for the workforce. He landed a four-month internship with Mona Hill Contracts where he now works with a team of electricians.

“The class really helped me in the workforce because it taught me the core skills needed to be successful in the construction business,” Robert said. “Now that I’m on the job, I am able to see how those skills correlate between trades. I’m really glad I came to the program, it really taught me a lot.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Georgetown & GW Basketball, Maryland Football: Coaches Come Together & Talk Teamwork

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While sports and spirituality may not seem to have much in common, four local coaches  - Georgetown University Head Basketball Coach John Thompson III, Georgetown University Women's Basketball Coach Natasha Adair, Maryland University Football Coach Randy Edsall and George Washington University Men's Basketball Coach Mike Lonergan - proved they were plenty alike.

The four Beltway coaches served on a panel, moderated by Washington Capital's announcer Joe Beninati, during Catholic Charities' annual Spirituality Retreat (with this year's theme focusing on building a team). While each coach had his or her own perspective on how to construct a winning team, the common denominators among each  were building trust within the team, understanding the players and how they respond to discipline and rewards, and serving as a role model in faith and in character to the student-athletes.  

As the panel ended, employees were thrilled to ask their own questions of the coaches - everything from the NBA Finals to working with athletes who have mental disabilities (such as ADHD). Retreat-goers thoroughly enjoyed this out-of-the box type panel, connecting athletics to faith and team-building - the centerpiece of the entire day.

We are grateful to have such inspiring and passionate leaders in our community, and we look forward to watching each of them coach their teams as basketball and football seasons approach! 

Read Georgetown Athletic's press release for more.  
Go Hoyas, Colonials and Terps! 
From Left: Mike Lonergan, Randy Edsall, John Thompson III, Natasha Adair, Joe Beninati & Father John


Thompson and Adair Participate in Catholic Charities Panel

WASHINGTON - Georgetown University's Head Men's Basketball Coach John Thompson III and Head Women's Basketball Coach Natasha Adair were among four panelists of local coaches at Catholic Charities' Spiritual Retreat on Wednesday morning at the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center at The Catholic University of America in Northwest Washington, D.C. 

The group included Thompson, Adair, George Washington Head Men's Basketball Coach Mike Lonergan and University of Maryland Head Football Coach Randy Edsall. It was moderated by local sports broadcaster Joe Beninati and the event was run by Monsignor John Enzler of Catholic Charities. 

Nearly 500 people attended the panel where the local coaches spoke on teamwork, leadership and the importance of compassion and faith in the work that they do. The attendees included people from the many branches of Catholic Charities, and the lessons were applicable to each separate program.
Thompson discussed the importance of the team concept among all players. 

"It's not about each individual person, it's about us as a team and you can't have slippage," said Thompson. "Our players have to understand who we are and how we do things. 

"You can't treat each and every person the exact same way, some people respond to reward, some people respond to punishment." 

Adair also touched upon identifying leaders and their role in a team environment. 

"You can identify a leader immediately, because they surface to the front. You watch them when they enter a room, how they respond, how they interact," she said. "You meet with them, you challenge them and you reiterate your goals. You don't put the onus on them, you tell them that we need you to help the team. Always refer back to the team concept." 

"I tell leaders that I see greatness in them. I try to motivate from a positive standpoint and not make a pressure situation, leadership is their gift." 

Questions came from both Beninati as well as the audience. Thompson was asked about his relationship with players at Georgetown and beyond when student-athletes turn into professionals. 

"One thing that is often lost by the general public about intercollegiate athletics is that with all the attention that all our teams get in this day in age, we're still coaching, teaching, helping to raise 17-22 year olds," Thompson said. 

"You might see a Georgetown game on TV and start to think of them like they're pros, but the reality is that our job is very different from coaches at a professional level. Probably 20 percent of my job is basketball, maybe less, so much more is helping these young men and women hopefully after four years that we can kick them out of the nest and they will be ok." 

Adair, in her first year with the Hoyas as the head coach, used her transition to show what team needs to be successful. 

"Our motto this year is `Earn It' and everything we do, we're going to earn together. Once we earn it, we'll `Own It' and once we get past that, we'll celebrate it. When you celebrate it, you do it together." 

The panel was the beginning of a day-long retreat that included mass in the morning and workshops in the afternoon. 

View the photo gallery here

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Five Star Friday!

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Big, big news for us here at Catholic Charities. Our Behavioral Health Services was awarded the very first five-star rating by the DC Department of Behavioral Health! Our services providing ongoing care to low-income people with mental illness has been part of the community for more than 50 years, but we're jumping for joy as we are the first provider in the city to ever earn the highest rating possible!

To celebrate, we're decreeing today #FiveStarFriday. Want to meet just one of the thousands of clients who have been helped? Meet Faustino

Here's our press release:

Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services earn first five-star rating
ever awarded by District of Columbia Government

The DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) awarded the first ever five-star rating to Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services in its annual review of all providers contracted to the agency. Each contracted provider is rated annually through an in-depth quality review of case files, reviews of procedures and a financial indicators audit. This is the first time a provider agency earned a five-star rating.

“I am incredibly proud of the staff of our Behavioral Health Services,” said Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “To know how challenging this work can be and see it carried out with such a high-degree of expertise is very inspiring.”

For Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services Director Karen Ostlie the rating justifies a constant culture of quality improvement among the staff.

“We focused on creating a consumer-centered atmosphere, one where consumers are empowered by having a choice in their care,” Ostlie said. “I know how much effort everyone here has put into their careers and into serving our neighbors who struggle with persistent and ongoing mental illness. I can’t even begin to say how wonderful this is and what it means to all of us.”  

Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services has operated for more than 50 years in the District, for many years under the name Anchor Mental Health. Annually, the program today works with more than 1,000 consumers and offers a full-range of care from psychiatrists and comprehensive community support to supported employment and counseling to specialized teams going out into the community to reach isolated and often homeless consumers or responding to the crises of teenagers and children.

“Anchor Mental Health worked very hard to get the highest score possible on compliance with regulations and quality of care.  This is a significant achievement,” said Steve Baron, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health.  “Grading providers fosters quality improvement and helps individuals choose a mental health provider that is right for them.”

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington meets the most pressing human needs,  serving more than 116,000 people annually through 65 programs in 48 locations throughout the District of Columbia and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties in Maryland. We serve everyone who comes to us in need. Catholic Charities is accredited by the national Council on Accreditation. For more information, visit