Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Secrets to a long, happy life – from a volunteer 90 years young

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Ms. Gibson (left) has been volunteer with SHARE for 22 years!
A 90th birthday party is rare indeed – and one held at the warehouse of Catholic Charities’ SHARE Food Network is even more uncommon. But the guest of honor, Ms. Elizabeth Gibson, would have it no other way.

For the past 22 years, since SHARE began in 1990, the warehouse has been Ms. Gibson’s second home. And the SHARE community – whether staff, volunteers, or people needing access to healthy, affordable food – has been her second family.

What keeps her going? A simple, daily wish: “Every day I try to do something that makes someone else’s day a little better.”

“We all love Ms. Gibson here,” said Chris Byrd, SHARE Coordinator. “When people come to pick up their food, they just brighten up when they see her. And all of us who work here do the same. She has a great spirit, great sense of camaraderie, and a wonderful passion for helping others.”

Birthday Card from the SHARE family
Ms. Gibson assists with SHARE’s weekend food distribution each month, and helps run SHARE’s Market Day – when surplus food from distribution is sold at cut rates – each Monday following distribution. She also prepares a homemade lunch on Market Days, knowing that staff and volunteers are tired from working long and early hours for the weekend distribution.

And that’s just what Ms. Gibson did on her birthday, August 27, which happened to fall on a SHARE Market Day: make, and serve, a hot lunch for others.

“When I woke up today, I told God I’d be grateful if I could serve another lunch to everyone at SHARE. And here I am.”

Over her decades of involvement with SHARE, Ms. Gibson has also served on the Friends of SHARE Advisory Committee and received two SHARE volunteer awards. A retired dietician, Ms. Gibson also helps SHARE enhance its monthly menu with new, healthy foods.

To celebrate her continued commitment to SHARE, staff shared a slice of birthday cake with all who showed up at the warehouse for Market Day and presented Ms. Gibson with a special birthday card signed by volunteers and staff at SHARE.
Ms. Gibson (center) holds birthday letter from Gov. O'Malley
Ms. Gibson also received birthday letters from Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Mayor Petrella A. Robinson of Ms. Gibson’s hometown, North Brentwood, MD, thanking her for her years of service not only to SHARE but also other community organizations.

“Each day I just feel gratitude and happiness to be able to help others,” she said.

Thank you, Ms. Gibson, for sharing your kindness and grace with Catholic Charities – you are a true blessing to us and all those whom we serve!

More Catholic Charities
SHARE is open to everyone, whether you want to save money at the store or volunteer like Ms. Gibson! Learn more here on SHARE’s new webpages

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Night Out with the Washington Nationals!

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Last night Catholic Charities' friends and family packed over 300 seats at the Nationals Ballpark, showing their support for our good work in the community and of course for the Curly W! A short rain delay didn't stop the fun as fans celebrated a 4-1 win for the Nats over the Atlanta Braves, with Strasburg pitching six innings and catcher Jesus Flores slamming a three-run homer in the fifth.The Nationals now hold a seven-game lead over the second-place Braves. Can't wait to see what the rest of the season brings! 

It was a big night for Catholic Charities, too: Over 70 people signed up to volunteer at our programs, and we saw the premiere of our new PSA on the Nationals Jumbotron! 

Special thanks to the Washington Nationals for supplying us with tickets at a discount rate. And thanks to all our supporters who came out, even in the rain, to cheer on Catholic Charities!

Our Outreach Team greeted fans as they entered the ballpark!

Catholic Charities' 30 second commerical on the Nationals Jumbotron!

Washington Nationals ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the mound! He threw 10 stikeouts!

Left to right: Teresa, Jackie and Kathy spread the word about our good works in DC and MD

The Presidents unite! Father John poses with Honest Abe

The end of our 30 second commercial, where we hope everyone went to our website or
will remember us in their workplace giving campaign this fall!

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche waits at 3rd base.

Father John with our Outreach Team - we had more than 70 people sign up to volunteer
and several folks gave us a cash donation on the spot. Woo!

More Catholic Charities!
Stay up-to-date on Catholic Charities events by following us on Facebook!
Upcoming events include our Golf Classic - learn more here!
Volunteers are always welcome to share their gifts with the people we serve.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Catholic Charities kids root on the Burgundy and Gold at Redskins Training Camp

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Earlier this week our Washington Redskins hosted several youngsters at their annual Redskins Training Camp from Catholic Charities' Kennedy Institute Community Companions program. Community Companions is an after-school and day program for youth with developmental disabilities. They had a blast! Special thanks to the Washington Redskins and Redskins Charitable Foundation for making it all possible. Enjoy these snapshots - and Hail to the Redskins!

Catholic Charities at Redskins Training Camp
Almost there! These young Skins fans can't wait to see the action on the field
Youth from Catholic Charities' Community Companions pay homage to Redskins speedy wide receiver Santana Moss
Catholic Charities at Redskins Training Camp
RGIII (Robert Griffith III) standing with backup quarterback
and last year's starter Rex Grossman

Catholic Charities at Redskins Training Camp
"This is so cool!"
Catholic Charities at Redskins Training Camp
Quarterbacks workout. In the center you can spot top draft pick
RGIII (Robert Griffith III)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beyond a Crisis: How Catholic Charities Addresses Deeper Issues for Families

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Our August fundraising letter just went out in the mail and it features the story of a familiar face for regular readers here – Becky, the resident of our Angel’s Watch Shelter who was featured on the Open Door earlier this summer. We’re so proud of Becky and glad that so many will see her story.

The letter focuses on dignity – on going beyond meeting the immediate need of shelter, food or clothing – or in Becky’s case, safety from an abusive husband. Catholic Charities’ staff dedicate much of their working time to helping clients like Becky move beyond the crisis with long-term skills. In Becky’s case that meant helping her enroll in classes.

Esther ran into a tough financial situation.
In another story we’d like to share, it meant teaching financial literacy through budget classes to help a family with very few resources learn to be smart with their spending (and saving).
When Esther lost her job, her life became a juggling act. Fortunately, she was a good juggler. A single mom with four children, she had always kept a careful eye on her family’s budget, and for a while she managed to stretch her unemployment check to meet their immediate needs.

But then she got a cut-off notice from her electric company. “I was strapped,” Esther said. “I had to make choices at that time of what to pay and what could wait.”

She started looking for help and was referred to Catholic Charities’ Montgomery County Family Center (MCFC), which provides families with emergency financial assistance and other resources to guide them out of crisis.

“There’s a big change in who we see needing help,” said Nhora Rosero, Family Support Specialist at the MCFC. “It used to be people with no education, people with no employment training. Now, it’s families who for some reason have fallen on a hard time and are struggling to get out of it.”

But providing financial aid isn’t enough – people who suddenly find themselves in a tight budget spot also need tools to help them recover and avoid similar problems in the future. So staff at our MCFC enlisted the help of volunteers to begin “Money Matters, ” a class funded by the Neighbors In Need Montgomery Fund housed at The Community Foundation for Montgomery County, an affiliate of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

For Esther, the class offered a lot of practical advice. “I learned to pay myself first,” she said. “In other words, instead of only tucking away what I have left at the end of the month, I put a certain amount in savings right at the start. This way I know there will always be something there on another rainy day.”

She also learned how to budget for little things as well as big things. “Travel expenses were costing me a ton,” she said. “Now I make one trip to the store a week. I plan my family’s meals ahead. And I wait until I have a few errands before I go into town, to help save on gas or bus fare.”

Thanks to the class, Esther has set up a budget she can manage, and a savings account she can fall back on, as she continues her search for employment. “Once Catholic Charities helped me out of that crisis, it was a fresh start for me and my family.”

More Catholic Charities!
If you can help us provide our neighbors in need with this type of long-term assistance, please make a gift here.  

Money Matters is just one of many programs offered for families at Catholic Charities' Montgomery County Family Center. Get a full list here! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

A man overcoming homelessness and a staff member both work to end addiction in DC

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It’s a tale of two colleagues, Freddie and Carlita, whose lives have crisscrossed more than once on their educational journeys.

They’re both proud graduates of Catholic Charities’ Professional Counseling Education Program (PCEP). They’re both pursuing degrees at the Catholic University of America. And most days they’re only a hallway away from each other at Catholic Charities’ Mulumba House – Freddie as a resident, and Carlita as a staff member.

Drugs once ruled Freddie’s life. He started using because of peer pressure, then struggled to get clean for years. “People with addictions think they have all the answers. The hardest part is listening, and doing what the recovery program says. I struggled with listening for a long time,” he said. But then he came to Catholic Charities’ Transitional Rehabilitation Program at 801 East, where his addictions counselors guided him to sobriety.

“Some great people at Catholic Charities helped me overcome by substance abuse issues. When I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, now that I was drug-free, I wanted to help others the way those people have helped me,” Freddie said.     

Last summer Freddie enrolled in PCEP, an adult education program at Catholic Charities that trains participants to work with people with substance abuse issues. For many of the program’s graduates, its also a launch pad to a new career. He also moved into Mulumba House, a Catholic Charities permanent supportive housing program.

Carlita started PCEP two years ago to enrich her employment experience and learn more about a problem she saw many people in her community facing – addictions. “PCEP taught me skills that have been transferable at multiple jobs. I learned how to approach situations from a different perspective,” she said. “There are carryover skills you learn: how to listen non-judgmentally and ask open-ended questions. How people’s minds work.”

At the time Carlita was working at a school, but after learning more about Catholic Charities through PCEP, she began applying for jobs with us, which brought her to Mulumba House in January 2012. Freddie and Carlita met and shared their experiences from PCEP, as well as their strikingly similar academic pursuits at The Catholic University of America. Both hope to become certified addictions counselors.

Carlita and Freddie are thrilled to have found mentors and coaches in each other, and they continue to support each other during course selection, exams week, and everything in between. They appreciate the support they have right at Mulumba and agree that they would not be succeeding at CUA without the solid foundation PCEP provided.

Dr. Nancy Butler, Director of Catholic Charities Institute which runs the PCEP class, has invited both Carlita and Freddie to speak at PCEP graduation ceremonies, motivating other program participants to see where their new education can take them. “Participants in PCEP are very diverse,” said Dr. Butler. “They may be looking to get certified as an addictions counselor, or to enhance their skill set. They may be in recovery from addictions. No matter their background, PCEP teaches them a viable skill that puts them on a path to having a steady job and making a good salary.”

PCEP puts people on track to helping address the major problem of substance abuse in DC. A 2011 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that that drug and alcohol abuse rates were higher in the District than anywhere else in the country – 11.3 percent of people 12 and older – due to the prevalence of drugs here, co-occurring health problems like HIV/AIDS and mental illness, and high-stress jobs.

Many PCEP alumni are using their degrees for good, working as residential counselors, case managers, counselor’s aides, social workers, and educators. One graduate is even starting up a peer counseling program here in DC. Through a special partnership, PCEP alumni can also receive a tuition discount at the Catholic University of America to become certified addictions counselors, like Freddie and Carlita.

“The information you get from this class is power, as long as you use it to better yourself, better your education, and better your career,” Freddie said. “Look at me. I’m 58. If I can do it, you have no excuse.”

More Catholic Charities!
PCEP is approved by the DC APC and NAADAC. Learn more about enrollment and course schedules online at www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/pcep. You can also contact Dr. Nancy Butler for more information at nancy.butler@catholiccharitiesdc.org

If you’re interested in other adult education opportunities, Catholic Charities has plenty to offer – ESOL classes, Spanish classes, and employment training programs. Learn more here!

Know someone with a substance abuse problem? We have programs that can help. Get more information here