Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seeking Jesus among the living

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Fr. John makes some new friends at our Sanctuaries for Life program
Guest Post from Father John
President & CEO of Catholic Charities

I admit it: my sisters were much better than I at dyeing Easter eggs!

But of course, nobody cared. Sitting together in our warm, busy kitchen, dyeing the eggs and laughing and singing, was a family event – something we did together as part of preparing for the return of Jesus.
As I look back now, on those special, blessed years, I realize that in many ways, we are doing the same thing here at Catholic Charities. We are preparing for the Resurrection by serving people who need us.

We meet them as they are…coming to us from different places, with different needs, different hopes and dreams. Each person who turns to us is unique and special in his or her own way. Each one, just like you and me, is created in God’s image.

That’s why, when we seek Jesus today, we seek him among the living. The story of the Resurrection tells us that life wins out over death. That love wins over hate. The Resurrection is where we find our reasons, and our opportunities, to care for the poor, to feed the hungry, and to comfort those who are suffering.

That sense of giving is what makes the Lenten season such a rewarding time. The weeks we spend in preparation for Easter are a time of collective sharing, but they are also part of our own, deeply personal journey toward Jesus.

Throughout this Lenten and Easter season, I have spent some time in our shelters and programs as a way of walking in solidarity with those in need. I ask that today, you join me in that walk by supporting our work. Your generosity keeps alive the promise of the Resurrection by giving new life and hope to people who might have neither without your help.

In a world that too often seems selfish and shallow, every suffering person offers us the opportunity – and the challenge – to spread Jesus’ love, compassion and mercy.

God bless you for caring!

Take action!

Fr. John visited several of our programs this Lenten season, including Adam’s Place, an emergency shelter for men who are homeless, and Sanctuaries for Life, a program helping women who are facing an unintended pregnancy make a life-affirming decision. Take a moment to learn more about their services!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anchor Mental Health receives a top-tier ranking for its services

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Staff in front of Anchor Mental Health, located in northeast DC
The Department of Mental Health (DMH) recently distinguished our Anchor Mental Health Services with a four-star rating on its annual Provider Scorecard.  This rating, announced recently on DMH’s website, places Anchor in the highest tier for DC mental health service providers.

“We’re committed to providing quality services to our consumers and we’re very proud of the four-star rating. For us, it’s a recognition of the thorough and dedicated work of our staff,” said Karen Ostlie, Core Service Agency Director at Anchor. Many of the consumers served at Anchor are among the most vulnerable, and face multiple struggles as they seek help treating a mental illness: homelessness, no insurance, no income or work, and often dealing with substance abuse or chronic health problems.

Last year Anchor served 939 individuals with mental illness.
For more than 50 years, Anchor has worked in the community to help consumers achieve stability. They begin treatment by helping consumers define a clear set of goals; for example, managing their medication, finding a place to live, or getting a job. Then, staff assist consumers in developing a plan to achieve those goals and review the resources available to them. Many of these resources are available right at Anchor: group therapy sessions, employment training (sometimes through Catholic Charities Enterprises), on-site psychiatrists, and supportive housing.

To ensure that their services remain of the highest quality, staff at Anchor conducts customer satisfaction surveys and monthly quality improvement meetings to gauge the areas in which they can better their services to the women and men who need their help.

“Sometimes people think that someone with a mental illness has nothing to offer. There’s definitely a stigma that can have real world consequences,” Karen said. “But our consumers display incredible strength from dealing with their mental illness on a day-to-day basis. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.  But they have a lot of people here at Anchor caring about them – and a big part of that care is letting people know that their situation can get better.”

Anchor Mental Health is not far from being among the first providers to earn five stars on the DMH Provider Scorecard. They are currently reviewing the details of the DMH’s rating to see what areas of service they can improve, with the goal of providing the highest- quality service to their consumers.

Learn More!
In addition to their mental health services, Anchor Mental Health provides services to the community through its ACT Team, which reaches out to people with severe cases of mental illness, and ChAMPS, a mobile emergency service for families and children experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis.

Take action!
Last year, Anchor Mental Health worked with 939 individuals with mental illness. You can support Anchor’s important work to our community here.

Medical professionals who can volunteer their time are always welcomed! You can contact Anchor at (202) 635-5900.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gala’s million-dollar milestone means more good works for our immigrant neighbors

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Gala Chairs Dr. and Mrs. Daboub
On Saturday night, the Spanish Catholic Center Benefit Gala celebrated the Center’s 45 years of service to the local Hispanic community by doing something it had never done before – raise over one million dollars in a single night to support its work.

Held in the beautiful Hall of Americas at the Organization of American States building near the National Mall, the sold-out black-tie event annually supports the many services of the Spanish Catholic Center.  Since 1967, the Center has worked in the local community, providing critical care to immigrants and low-income Latino families. Those services have grown to include medical and dental clinics in DC and Maryland, job training programs, social services, emergency food and specialized immigration legal assistance.
The Kappazes accept their award from Cardinal Wuerl.

Gala Chairs Dr. Juan José Daboub and Mrs. Glorybell Silhy de Daboub put it best in describing why the Gala’s true success. “It may be when a caring staff member works with a family to provide food, connect them to job assistance, or help them see a doctor or dentist even when they have no insurance,” Dr. Daboub said. “Above all else, it may be the warm and reassuring presence of a staff member that says to the family, ‘You are not alone.’”

Bishop Francisco González (left) and Cardinal Wuerl
Then, Mrs. Daboub, a member of the Spanish Catholic Center’s Advisory Council, announced the fundraising total, and the room exploded with applause and excitement. It was new record, bringing with it a lot of hope.

The evening included a cocktail hour and dinner with His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. During dinner, a trio from the Youth Orchestra of the Americas entertained guests with vibrant selections from around the world.

After dinner, the Spanish Catholic Center presented three awards to honor volunteers, partners and leaders who have made service to the Latino and immigrant community a part of their work. Clark Construction Group accepted The Robert and Lucia Lado Award, LLC for their support of the Center’s Pre-Apprenticeship Green Construction program. Bishop Francisco González, S.F. accepted The James Cardinal Hickey Award.

A standing ovation for the new fundraising record!
Mike and Chafi Kappaz, longtime supporters of the Spanish Catholic Center and Catholic Charities, became the inaugural recipients of The Blessed John Paul II Award. Always mindful of the challenges they faced as newcomers to the United States, the Kappazes are now committed to empowering other immigrants to thrive in their new surroundings. They have served as Chairs of the 2009 Spanish Catholic Center Gala and remain deeply involved in helping the Spanish Catholic Center.

A few days later and just miles away from where the Gala was held, the Spanish Catholic Center’s Monroe Street location was alive with activity. The waiting room was full of clients: mothers rocking fussy babies, young women chatting over an ESL textbook, toddlers pushing toy cars along the windowsill, a young man editing his resume – all with simple and often desperate needs.

Members of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas
“We try to reach the people who fall between the cracks,” Sister Janice Heisey, Director of the DC Dental Clinic said. “And just look at our waiting room! There are many.”

This is the end goal of the Gala – to create opportunities.

It’s difficult to find the right words to thank everyone who gave us the assurance that the Center’s vital services can continue to help those in need, but we think Dr. and Mrs. Daboub put it best: “¡Mil gracias! ¡Mil gracias!

Read on:
 The Gala might be over, but you can still support the Spanish Catholic Center

Our Catholic Charities Foundation Gala is right around the corner, raising funds to support our 77 programs across the Archdiocese of Washington! Please join us at this annual event.

Photos from the Spanish Catholic Center Gala were featured in The Hill's Washington Scene!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

SHARE and SCC receive Innovation Award for their anti-hunger outreaches

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SHARE Food Network volunteers
Two of our programs - the Spanish Catholic Center and SHARE Food Network - recently received an Innovation Award from the Hunger Free Communities Network in recognition of their creative and highly effective approaches to fighting hunger (read more about the award here!). 

In particular, these programs reach out to recent immigrants and members of the Latino community who may be unfamiliar with programs like SNAP and who may require extra help, such as language classes and immigration aid, to find meaningful work. 

The SCC and SHARE help meet their immediate need for food. They teach them how to stretch their limited resources through food stamps and SHARE food packages. They educate them about making healthy food choices on a limited budget by conducting supermarket tours. And they empower people to improve their situation through education and employment.

The Innovation Award was presented on Saturday, February 25 at the Second Annual National Hunger Free Communities Summit, where Lily Echeverria, Family Support Worker and Employment Specialist at our Spanish Catholic Center, presented the video (below) outlining their work (you can also view the video here!). Congratulations to both programs - we appreciate all they do to ensure that our neighbors right here in the Washington, DC metropolitan region get the food and resources they need.

Read On!
News story from Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland on the Innovation Award

Support our work!
Purchase a SHARE Food Package this month - you'll save 50% on your groceries while helping your neighbors who are hungry!
You can make a donation directly to SHARE Food Network and/or to the Spanish Catholic Center.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We need your help to collect 125,000 pounds of food in just two weeks!

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Guest Post by Teresa Volante, Parish Partners Program Manager

It’s not hard to find good people in the Archdiocese of Washington. I see and hear about so many inspirational ministries to the poor happening in parishes throughout Maryland and DC. There are clothing drives and Angel Trees, dinners for people who are homeless in our area, fundraisers and volunteer opportunities for local nonprofits, groups who give out emergency rental assistance and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable in their communities, and more. We are truly an Archdiocese that actively witnesses our faith through service, charity, and love.

This Lent, we’re harnessing that collective goodwill to work together towards one common goal: 125,000 pounds of food to stock up local pantries in our region through the annual Share in Hope Food Drive.

In 2008, Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, organized the first-ever archdiocesan-wide food drive in partnership with Catholic Charities as a welcoming honor to Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Washington, D.C. We have continued this tradition each year since then, uniting 140 parishes and 98 schools to help end hunger in our community.

To date, the Share in Hope food drive has collected over 750,000 pounds of food to assist our neighbors who are hungry. Many parishes fill an entire room with their donations. This food goes to Capital Area Food Bank and stocks the shelves of more than 20 community food pantries, pantries that families depend upon when they hit hard times. Contributing to the drive is an easy, yet very powerful act – your donation, a simple bag of groceries, will ensure that someone who is hungry can have something to eat. 

This year’s Share in Hope Food Drive comes at a time when 20 percent of households with children in Maryland are facing food insecurity. In the District, that number jumps to 37.4 percent. Think about it: that means if there are 30 kids in your child’s class at school, up to 11 of them could be living in a home where a nice warm meal is no guarantee. Sadly, it is a living reality for many people, and one that brings a great deal of anxiety for parents who don’t know if they can feed their children tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day.

Our food drive collects healthy, nonperishable food items. Helping out is easy!

1) On your next trip to the supermarket, fill an extra bag with nonperishable food items to donate. To ensure pantries get stocked with enough variety of food, we’ve provided recommendations of what to buy based on the first letter of your last name (available here), though all donations are gratefully appreciated.

2) Bring all food donations to your local parish (there’s a handy directory here) by:
Sunday, March 4 for parishes in Northwest and Southwest DC and Montgomery County
Sunday, March 11 for parishes in Northeast, Southeast and Southwest DC, Prince George’s County, and Southern Maryland.

You can also ask at your parish or school if volunteers are needed to help counting or moving the food.

Thank you for helping Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington live out the Gospel through service to our most vulnerable neighbors.

Teresa is the Program Manager for Catholic Charities’ Parish Partners Program, which works with local parishes to enhance their community outreach and support their assistance to individuals in need. Learn more about Parish Partners here.

More Info:
Read more about the Share in Hope Food Drive in the latest Catholic Standard.
Questions? Check out the Share in Hope website or contact Teresa Volante at (301) 942-1790

Read On!