Tuesday, March 25, 2014

9,000 Reasons this was a Warm Winter

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Guest Post: Kevin O'Brien, Parish & School Outreach Coordinator
It was Christmas Eve, and at the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter, a woman came into the building in the mid-afternoon shivering. She had been released from the hospital and had walked across the city to the shelter. 

The high that day barely reach 40 degrees. 

She was immediately taken back to the “coat closet” where staff helped her try on coats until she found one that fit her and was warm. She then went and had some lunch and warmed up from the cold day.

This winter brought with it some of the coldest temperatures the Washington, DC area had seen in years. It was accompanied by some of the warmest feelings and most open hearts.  

Joseph’s Coats of Many Colors Drive, the archdiocesan-wide coat drive which just completed its second year, received more than 9,000 new and gently used coats as donations.  Catholic Charities, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Washington Schools Office worked with volunteers (who came by the hundreds) to make sure that everyone who needed protection from the elements could have it.

Alumni organizations, high school students, and friends volunteered at our “boutique shops” set up throughout the Washington, DC area. At these boutiques, coats could be purchased for the low price of two dollars and even purchased in bulk for area churches and shelters.  One of those coats purchased for a shelter went to the woman who came in on Christmas Eve.

To add to the warmth of the occasion, students wrote and decorated notes to put in the pockets of the coats, letting the coats’ new owners know there are people praying for and thinking of them.

When Mother Nature gave us bone-chilling weather this winter, the community answered back—and the response was incredible. 

 We are grateful to so many for the success of our coat drive. We’d like to say a special thanks to: the students, faculty, and staff at Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr. Jim Boccabella and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Southeast DC, Fr. Jim Stack and St. Jerome Parish in Hyattsville, MD, and our Super Volunteers—Cathy McCarthy and Karen O’Brien (St. Patrick’s Parish in Rockville, MD), and Lynn Stewart (Blessed Sacrament Parish in Northwest DC).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Young Man Bounces Back from Drug Addiction and Aims For Career Goals

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The second graduating class proudly display their diplomas with mentors/instructors Annette Headley and Mark Harrison.
On Friday, March 14, we held our second graduation for the JOBS (Jobs and Other Basic Skills) Program students to celebrate this memorable day in their lives. Through all of the workforce training, job shadowing and life skills building, Ismael, a young Latino man with drugs and gang violence in his past, learned a lot about himself—career goals, inner strengths and who he wants to be as an person.

Ismael first found Catholic Charities by seeking drug addiction treatment at 801 East Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP) and then moved into the Youth Transitional Program (YTP). After hearing about the JOBS program and meeting with JOBS Manager Mark Harrison, he decided to embark on this journey to enhance his skill set and expand his career options.

 “One of the hardest parts of the program was really getting to know myself. There were times where I didn’t want to dig deep into myself because I used to be a nasty person,” Ismael said. “My teachers got to my core and then built me back up again.”

Ishmael tells graduation goers of his growth while at JOBS.
And discovering some of his strengths—some known, some hidden— was just what Mark Harrison and Annette Headley helped him do. Although Ishmael hasn't used his Spanish skills in a professional setting for some time, the JOBS staff noticed he could speak both English and Spanish. They encouraged him to practice his language skills and use this asset in the workforce.

Currently, Ismael works as a courtesy clerk at Safeway and hopes to secure full-time employment in customer service. Now a JOBS graduate, he now sets his eyes to larger goals, including getting his GED certificate and continuing on to college. 

Although the course is five weeks long, the journey for Ismael and the other graduates isn’t finished. The men who received their diplomas today must continue to persevere at their jobs and in their daily lives to succeed. Nonetheless, each man expressed his gratitude to the JOBS program for assisting in finding new or rediscovered talents to apply when entering the workforce. 

Not only did Ismael hone in on his skill set (such as being bilingual) during his time at JOBS, he also gained a deeper understanding of the person he is and the man he wants to become. “It’s a great feeling to say I know who I am,” Ishmael said.

We congratulate the second class on their hard work and achievements! We look forward to share more updates with you on our upcoming class!