Friday, May 27, 2011

With blessing from Cardinal, our new Montgomery Medical Clinic is officially open!

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Although we’ve been seeing patients for more than a month, yesterday we held the official opening ceremony to celebrate our brand new Spanish Catholic Center Montgomery Medical Clinic. More than 70 friends and fellow doctors o low-income patients in the region joined us to witness Cardinal Donald Wuerl bless the facility and pray for the staff and patients.

Cardinal Wuerl spoke of the urgency and panic a health crisis can bring – especially for someone without health insurance. He emphasized that through the work of the Spanish Catholic Center and Catholic Charities, we are the face of Christ to many. Following the blessing, staff and doctors gave guests tours of the new facility before our afternoon appointments arrived.

There were three major reasons we made the move. First, it was an undeniable opportunity to create a state-of-the-art facility in line with our goal to always offer the highest quality care to our patients. Eventually, the new clinic will see a higher number patients per month, once we are fully settled into our new home.

Second, it made sense as we strive to meet and address the larger needs of a shifting and growing immigrant population. Residents in Langley Park have several options for community-based health clinics (though these services combined hardly meets the incredible health care crisis many Latinos face). In our new Silver Spring/Wheaton community, there are very few options for affordable health care for low-income families. Still, as we were considering this move, we asked our patients if they supported the move and would continue to come to us for care. An overwhelming 85 percent said they would join us at the new clinic.

Third, our new location at the Cardinal McCarrick Center already hosts a Spanish Catholic Center Dental Clinic and several other Catholic Charities programs including immigration legal services, the Montgomery County Family Center, Sanctuaries for Life and Parish Partners. This allows us to provide holistic services to our patients by meeting many needs. We know all too well that the barriers immigrants face are rarely simple.

The Spanish Catholic Center operates two medical clinics and two dental clinics in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia that serve uninsured or underinsured patients. Our clinics are among the few who offer walk-in appointments to patients – as we know how important it is for everyone to be able to access a doctor.

The move was only possible thanks to several great partners, including the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Health Care Initiative Foundation, DC United and several other great friends who shared our vision for providing health care for low-income Hispanic families. Carefirst and Kaiser Permanente covered the cost of bringing all four of our clinics online with an electronic health records system.

So, now we can officially say, “The doctor will see you now” or “El médico lo verá ahora!”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Your voice was heard – DC Council votes to keep homeless shelters open in the FY 2012 budget

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Great news!  Yesterday the DC Council restored nearly $20 million in homeless services to its FY 2012 Budget, confirming that we need to do more to help our homeless neighbors recover.  We’d like to thank you for your support and dedication over the weeks leading up to this vote—we couldn’t have convinced the council to restore funding without your emails, phone calls and letters. We’d also like to express our gratitude to the coalition of homeless service providers throughout the city who rallied together, our advocates and other supporters who joined hands and let the DC Council know that cutting shelter funds was not an option. And especially, we are proud and grateful to the residents of the shelters for using their voices to be heard! 

Catholic Charities operates five emergency shelters and one day program in partnership with the District.  Last year these shelters served nearly 10,000 men and women who have nowhere else to turn. Without the restoration of this funding, Catholic Charities would have had to shutter all of its emergency shelters by April of 2012, leaving our most vulnerable clients to sleep in the streets.

Yesterday’s Council vote helps get us back to where we were before with funding, and we are incredibly grateful—but there’s still much more we need to do to give our neighbors the opportunity to begin rebuilding their lives.  Learn more about our Housing and Shelter programs in the District, or donate directly to these programs today.

Read our press release following yesterday’s vote on our Facebook page.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Urgent: Homeless Shelters Could Close Next Year

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We need your help! A nearly $20 million shortfall in funding for DC's emergency homeless shelters could force the shelters to close on April 1, 2012, leaving 1,500 men and women on the street.

The final vote on the 2012 budget is this Wednesday, May 25, and the DC Council remains divided on whether or not to provide even the most basic of services to our vulnerable neighbors!

Please contact the following council members who have not taken a strong position. Urge them to fund the emergency homeless shelters for single adults and families:

Chairman Kwame Brown (At-Large)
202-724-8032 or

Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At-Large)
202-724-8064 or

Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3)
202-724-8062 or

Councilmember Vincent Orange (At-Large)
202-724-8174 or

Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5)
202-724-8028 or

Councilmember Marion Barry (Ward 8)
202-724-8045 or

Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward 4)
202-724-8052 or

Councilmembers Jim Graham (Ward 1), Yvette Alexander (Ward 7), Tommy Wells (Ward 6) and Michael Brown (At-Large) have already said they will vote to fund the shelters. If these council members represent your ward, thank them and encourage them to convince their colleagues.

Here are a few key points you can copy and paste into your emails and include in phone calls:

Dear Councilmember [last name],

I urge you to fully fund the $20 million shortfall for the Department of Human Services budget to keep our emergency homeless shelters open year-round. Washington, DC, has the highest rate of homelessness of any major city in the nation, and that rate has been increasing in the recession. We cannot in good conscience allow emergency homeless shelters to close next year given this reality. Please restore the nearly $20 million to ensure these critical services keep families off the street and give them a path to recovery.

A parting thought: “A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. In a society marred by deepening disparities between rich and poor, Scripture gives us the story of the Last Judgment (see Matthew 25:31-46) and reminds us that we will be judged by our response to the least among us.”

~Forming Consciences of Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility by the Catholic Bishops of the United States (2007), paragraph 49

Friday, May 13, 2011

Field trip to the grocery store teaches TANF families how to eat healthy on a budget

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Wouldn't it be great to have a dietician walk with you as you shopped for your groceries? Imagine being advised on what were the best products for both your health and your wallet.

For residents in our Tenants Empowerment Network Housing Program, that was exactly the case this week. Our CRISP program held its first healthy eating workshop on Thursday evening, taking 24 residents to the beautiful Giant in southeast DC to walk the aisles and learn how to eat healthy on a limited budget.

CRISP is geared toward working with families on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to fight obesity and unhealthy eating habits. Through a series of workshops and community events, CRISP will focus on teaching how to eat right on a tight budget, including by sharing recipes, taking trips together and discussing many different angels to nutrition.

The evening began with a discussion on how to properly read a nutrition label, get the best deal by comparing unit prices and a question and answer session on topics ranging from juices to sodium to dietary restrictions for diabetics. Then it was out into the store.

We hit the frozen food aisle, the dairy section (turns out cheese, while delicious, is not that great for you) and moved to snacks (peanut butter is great for kids). Our dietitian demonstrated what a good plate should look like (heavy on the veggies, light on the starches) and even gave advice on ice cream selection.

For a first outing, it was a very good start. I’d love to have a dietitian with me every time I’m at the store – it is advice everyone can use. Stay tuned for our next workshops - we'll be having more throughout the summer. If you are interested in helping or participating, leave a comment!

Monday, May 9, 2011

For youth, the end of the year is a chance to look back, reflect and celebrate

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An ILP youth award recipient proudly shows off her
certificate and $25 gift card, presented by
Children's Services staff in recognition of achievement
over the past year.
Josh Wilson, cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens, received resounding applause as he stood to speak before the room full of youth and teen parents gathered together at Phillip’s Seafood Restaurant in Washington, DC. The occasion was our Independent Living Program’s (ILP) annual youth awards ceremony, held as an opportunity to honor youth for their achievements during the year. At ILP, staff work closely with youth to help them age out of the foster care system and into independent living.
After all, growing up without a loving family can be very, very challenging, and the final transition to adulthood is often daunting for youth who don’t benefit from the guidance of parents or other relatives.

This is why Josh Wilson, NFL star and former Maryland Terrapin had come to dinner. To add his congratulations, too, and offer words of encouragement as our youth move upward and onward.

Like many of the youth we serve, Josh faced his share of hardships growing up. “My father died of a heart attack when I was young,” he said, explaining that he never had a strong male role model as a child. Even so, he cultivated a love of football and eventually when on to study at the University of Maryland. There, a coach dismissed him as “too short for the pros.” But at 5’9” and 192 pounds, Josh is certainly not a small man.

“I’m proud of where I am,” Josh said. “And all of you aren’t far from great success. Just be yourself.”Indeed, Josh remained true to himself—and in 2007, at the age of 21, he was drafted into the pros as a player for the Seattle Seahawks. While not all of our kids are destined for the NFL, many are ready to make their mark on our community.

“ILP gives us so much guidance,” said Allyson, 20, a youth enrolled in ILP since she exited the foster care system two years ago. “I have a naval engineering internship now. I want to be an engineer,” Allyson explained. She also serves as president of a local youth board.

“We discuss budgeting, school, internships—everything, really.” But more importantly, Allyson says, “I feel like I can really talk to the ILP staff. I can admit to them when I need help or make a mistake.”

Many of our youth face challenges at home as they learn to live independently. But many of them, like Allyson—and like Josh—also achieve great successes.

Later that evening, Allyson hoisted up the plaque presented to her by ILP staff for “Outstanding Performance.” Allyson kept a clean apartment, held a job and saved money, all on her own – crucial living skills many of us take for granted that we learned at home.

“They really motivate me,” Allyson added, referring to our staff. “They help us all better our lives.”

Like Josh said, Catholic Charities’ social workers teach our youth to believe in themselves. Once they gain self-confidence, cultivate positive self-esteem and work hard, they can achieve anything.

Congratulations, youth! We’re very proud of each and every one of you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Congratulations Jim Bishop!

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I wanted to share a quick note of congratulations on this beautiful Friday afternoon for our own Jim Bishop.

We wrote recently about Jim, who runs our Archdiocesan Legal Network here at Catholic Charities. In a nutshell, Jim is a central guy in connecting more than 500 pro bono attorneys with many families in our area who are in need of, but have no way of accessing or affording, high quality legal advice and representation.

Turns out on Saturday evening, Jim is being honored by the prestigious John Carroll Society, a very well-known and active body of Catholic lay men and women in the professional and business community.

If you have met Jim, you know instantly how compassionate, intelligent and especially humble he is. We at the Open Door blog and Catholic Charities could not be more proud. Way to go Jim and thank you to the John Carroll Society for recognizing his great work for more than 18 years!

Read our press release here. Give a shout out of support to Jim our Facebook.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Help us keep homeless shelters open!

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Just passing on an urgent and quick note about an action step we need your help with. The Mayor's proposed budget for 2012 has a $20.5 million funding hole that could leave the emergency shelters for men and women who are single and homeless out on the street.

The Washington Legal Clinic has the full break down here if you need more information. But please, please call your council member May 5 between 9 a.m. and noon and ask them to keep the 2012 funding levels at the same level as last year. In the single adult emergency shelters operated by Catholic Charities, more than 9,000 people seek safety and a place to sleep each year.

Without your help, these shelters may run out of funding by April of 2012! Please stand with us!

Contact for Council:

Kwame Brown (Chairman) 724-8032 or
Vincent Orange (soon to be at-large) 529-1962 or or
David Catania (at-large) 724-7772 or
Phil Mendelson (at-large) 724-8064 or
Michael Brown (at-large) 724-8105 or
Jim Graham (Ward 1) 724-8181 or
Jack Evans (Ward 2) 724-8058 or
Mary Cheh (Ward 3) 724-8062 or
Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) 724-8052 or
Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5) 724-8028 or
Tommy Wells (Ward 6) 724-8072 or
Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) 724-8068 or
Marion Barry (Ward 8 ) 724-8045 or
Jen Budoff, Council Budget Director 724-8139 or

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Catholic Charities President and CEO Ed Orzechowski announces new leadership

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This announcement from Catholic Charities President and CEO Ed Orzechowski was sent directly to our donors on Monday, May 2. We are very excited for Ed as he transitions into retirement--but we are equally excited to welcome Msgr. Enzler as the next generation of leadership for our organization.

Dear Friends,

I want to share some great news with you. Last week, both the Catholic Charities and Catholic Charities Foundation Boards unanimously approved the next President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington: Reverend Monsignor John J. Enzler.

Many of you already are familiar with the significant impact Msgr. Enzler has had on our community. I have personally known him for many years - he is the perfect choice to lead the next chapter of Catholic Charities’ incredible history here in the Washington-metropolitan region.

A native Washingtonian, Msgr. Enzler has more than 40 years of experience as a priest, leader and advocate serving the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. Msgr. Enzler has long been involved in the work of Catholic Charities, having served on the Catholic Charities Foundation Board of Directors and on our Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute Advisory Council.

Throughout the District and Maryland, Msgr. Enzler has had a lasting impact on our community through his leadership in many organizations that provide housing, health care, support for those with disabilities, assistance to immigrants and refugees, guidance to children and youth and immediate help to families in crisis. He was a founding member of Action in Montgomery, Inc., an interfaith network for social and economic change in Montgomery County. He is an active member of the Washington Interfaith Network and a Prince George’s County interfaith network. He has served on both local and national boards including Christ Child Society, Providence Hospital, Potomac Community Resources, SOAR, Shepherd Foundation, Victory Housing, Mount St. Mary’s University and Order of Malta among others.

In his priestly ministry, he has served at a number of parishes throughout the Archdiocese, including St. Jane de Chantal and Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, and as pastor of three parishes, Mt. Calvary in Forestville, Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac and most recently at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC. A month-long period he spent working side-by-side with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta has inspired, affirmed and driven his work locally.

Msgr. Enzler will begin his tenure in July. Of course, I will assist with the transition until my planned retirement date in January. But as I write today, I could not be more excited for the future of Catholic Charities, for our great staff who dedicate their lives to service and especially for the people who turn to us every day seeking help and hope.

Yours truly,

Ed Orzechowski
President and CEO
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington