Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

Kathleen Durkin

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When one thinks of the good works of Catholic Relief Services across the globe, what often comes to mind is the provision of food to hungry people, the response to natural disasters like the typhoon that struck the Philippines in late 2013, or the current efforts being made to stem the crisis of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In the Diocese of Charlotte, 25% of Rice Bowl funds distributed support the CRS Rice Bowl Mini Grant Program offered in the fall.  This past year, in November 2013, $1,000 grants were distributed to sixteen parishes of the diocese.  Grants were awarded for a variety of ministries including food pantries, community gardens, thrift stores, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, children’s nutrition programs, and general outreach to families in need.  The annual CRS Lenten Rice Bowl Collection and the CRS Mini-Grant Program are coordinated by Catholic Charities' Office of Social Concerns and Advocacy.   What did these $1,000 grants mean to these parish based ministries?  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul/ St. Eugene, St Lawrence, St. Joan of Arc Conference used its $1,000 Rice Bowl grant to support its ministry of offering financial assistance to families in need.  In an email report sent to the
Like everyone else in the room that Sunday morning who watched the video of Pope Francis addressing the Catholic Charities USA Annual Gathering in Charlotte, I was exceptionally proud to be there in that space and at that time.  It was simply one of those moments that brought clarity and purpose to the work I am privileged to do as part of the Catholic Charities agency here in the Diocese of Charlotte.  It can be so easy to let my focus be trained on the operational side of this work as my days are filled with meetings and emails and documents and financial reports and telephone calls, and, and…  These are legitimate and important tasks which deserve and require my full professional and careful attention.  But the work I do – the work all of us do at Catholic Charities – is not really about ensuring maximum efficiency and effectiveness as though we’re managing just another NGO.  What we do is at its core all about “caritas” or the “love of God.”   In his own words, Pope Francis reminded us that “as Catholic Charities workers, board members, donors, parish social ministers, volunteers and organizations, you bring that joy with each and

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Teen pregnancy is a hot topic in the media. Reality shows about the struggles of teen motherhood have become popular entertainment. Though teenage mothers like these often require a significant amount of attention and assistance, women of every age experiencing an unintended pregnancy need similar support. By age 45, more than half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy, and over half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended (Guttmacher Institute, 2013). Unintended pregnancies can leave women scared, stressed, and confused. They may need assistance getting food or a place to live. They may desire to come up with a birth plan or an adoption plan. In politics and the media, single mothers are portrayed in a negative light. There are stereotypes that a child born out of wedlock always has an absent father, or that two married parents that have a child will not struggle in the same ways that single mothers do. In actuality, every mother needs support, no matter her lifestyle. There are those that may require extra support because of life circumstances such as homelessness, financial struggles, unpreparedness, and a general lack of parenting resources, among other issues. With the economy in

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Sandy* was brought to Catholic Charities in Winston-Salem one evening about 8:00 by a man who explained he found Sandy walking around in front to his house. Thankfully, several agency staff were still at the office closing up after a meeting.  Sandy told the man she had been living on the streets for a couple weeks. After a conversation with Sandy’s father, who refused to allow her to come home, the man brought Sandy to Catholic Charities. Sandy shared how she managed to continue to go to school, where she hid a blanket and a few possessions, how she got food, and how she charged her IPod and phone without notice. Agency staff quickly went to work to secure Sandy’s safety. After confirming that Sandy’s father would not allow her to return home, staff secured emergency shelter and initiated the process of helping Sandy attain a stable future. According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth in the United States run away from home each year. Some youth may be forced to leave their home rather than voluntarily running away. Youth run away or are forced to leave their home for many reasons including abuse, neglect, substance

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Did you know that more than half of the world’s refugees are children? In light of the recent influx of unaccompanied minors arriving into the United States from Latin America, CCDOC’s Refugee Resettlement Office thought it might be an appropriate time to reflect on what comprehensive case management services look like for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM’s) that we serve. Although we are not currently providing services to any unaccompanied children from Latin America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has recommended that the US strengthen protections for these children and emphasize their best interests rather than the blind enforcement of immigration law. (For more information on this report, please visit the USCCB website.  We are proud to be a part of a complex, international network that serves refugee children who have become separated from their parents and other family members, an incredibly vulnerable population that requires special care and protections throughout the resettlement process. The URM’s we serve have fled from persecution (or fear of persecution) within their home countries to a second country of asylum. Their cases have been processed by such respected organizations as the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, the U.S. Department of State, and
As we age we have the opportunity to reflect on the different stages of our lives. We turn back to the times of success and loss, happiness and grief and look at the life events that both encouraged and challenged us. Every year Catholic Charities hosts Days of Reflection, an event that creates a time of reflection and renewal for senior adults. This time provides opportunities to encourage, challenge, and support a community of faith while also allowing time for reconnecting with personal purpose. Days of Reflection address the spiritual needs of senior adults in interactive ways by providing an outlet for seniors to gather with one another and share their faith. Individuals, who attend, leave with renewed spirits and a sense of connectedness within a larger faith community. Some may ask whether spirituality and faith make a difference in one’s outlook on aging and studies have shown that they do play a positive role in the aging process. Having had the privilege of working with seniors from around the Diocese for years, I have witnessed the difference faith and spirituality make in times of prosperity and sorrow. Individuals who are active in a church and their communities tend to

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The Newcomers ESL Class introduces basic English to newly arrived refugee youth.  The aim of the class is to prepare the children to begin school in the United States.  Catholic Charities has offered this class since the summer of 2006.  The class meets during the months of June and July for two hours a day Monday through Thursday.  This year the class meets for five weeks, devoting one week to each of the following topics:  classroom objects, the school building, American foods, the human body, and family.  Program participants learn not only English, but also accepted classroom behavior, and they make new friends too.  The current teachers are K’Sang Bonyo, and AmeriCorps members Taneah Bryant and Katrina Hruska.  A typical day at the class might look like this:   2:45 The teachers arrive at the class to prepare for the arrival of the students, only to find one 8-year-old Karenni girl from Burma waiting outside the classroom.   3:00 Two young Bhutanese girls arrive at the class.  All three students begin taking out books to look at the pictures.  Eventually one of the girls deposits her book on the shelf and picks up the Connect 4 game.  She carefully inserts the

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For many, the journey to adoption is about a choice.  It's about a choice to love a child into their family.  Many children are born into families, but there are special ones who are loved in.  Parents who adopt are parents who make a purposeful choice to welcome and grow their family through the love of their new child.  For many of our families, they may have tried several avenues to fulfill that lifelong dream of becoming a mother or father. At times they are successful, and other times they look at additional options, like adoption. It is a journey not to be taken lightly, but also one that can bring so much joy to a family.  Recently, a family was able to bring home their fourth child with special needs, a baby with Down syndrome. They have always been a family who believes in helping their children achieve all they can by focusing on their abilities and not their disabilities. When the call came in about the baby with Down syndrome, they knew he would be the perfect child for their family. They have welcomed him into their family with open arms and cannot imagine life without him. They are grateful
Catholic Charities’ presence in far western North Carolina has been known as the Office of Economic Opportunity, OEO for short, for most of its 15-year history.  The program, housed in the Bishop Begley Center for Economic Development in Murphy and offering services in Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Swain Counties, succeeds through a network of partnerships with other agencies and through a collaborative ecumenical approach.  Shining a spotlight on this ecumenical approach will bring into focus just how Catholic Charities successfully assists in the far western NC region to strengthen families, reduce poverty and build communities. When a tornado struck Cherokee County in March 2012, Catholic Charities and its partner St. William Catholic Church were designated to distribute CCUSA disaster relief funds to victims.  An elderly woman got a new ramp for her mobile home, a young family relocated to a donated mobile home, households received needed appliances, and other households had windows replaced.  Catholic Charities staff worked in tandem with two other Christian disaster assistance groups – Nehemiah’s Neighbors of the Methodist Church and NC Baptist Men to offer assistance. Church partnerships are the foundation of Catholic Charities’ success in far western NC.  At the recent “Stompin’ Out Poverty” event, held

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Hey teens! Do you….   Feel tired for no good reason? Have headaches or unexplained back pain? Eat a lot more or a lot less than usual? Have trouble sleeping? Suddenly have flashes of anger, or fight more with your family members and friends? Let little things bother you? Feel sad, moody or lonely? Have trouble thinking as clearly as you usually do?   If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be overly stressed!   Suggestions for managing stress:   1.  Go easy on yourself.  No one is perfect and gets things right all the time. If you are trying hard and doing your best, that’s all anyone can ask of you. Give yourself credit.   2.  Take one thing at a time and prepare.  Set small goals and break tasks into manageable chunks. Manage your time wisely.   3.  Take care of yourself.  Eat healthy foods. Limit caffeine and get enough rest. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with stress won’t solve anything and will lead to bigger problems.   4.  Laugh or cry a little. Releasing emotion may help to ease feelings and improve your outlook.   5.  Relax.  Making time to relax is vital

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The factors motivating a refugee to become a U.S. citizen can be many and vary from person to person.  Here are a few common motivators refugees applying for citizenship have expressed to those of us who have helped them along in the process.       Do you sit on pins and needles waiting for the next presidential election to come around, or pour over the Charlotte Observer for information about each candidate in the upcoming local election?  Some Americans gladly exercise the right to vote at every opportunity, however, many of us take this right for granted.  Only U.S. citizens can vote in county, state, and federal elections.  Many refugees were denied a voice in government before coming to the U.S.  Becoming a U.S. citizen finally allows them the opportunity to participate in government.      Five years can be a long time to wait!  That’s the minimum amount of time it takes a refugee to become a U. S. citizen.  When refugees are admitted for resettlement in the United States, the expectation is that they will become Permanent Residents and later citizens.  Becoming a U.S. citizen is, therefore, one step in the process of resettlement, and the final fulfillment of a commitment
1. About 70% of new arrivals to Charlotte in 2013 were from Bhutan and Burma.  Each year nearly 70,000 new refugees arrive in the United States, with CCDOC welcoming between 300-400 to the Charlotte area.  2. The Bhutanese lived for about 20 years in refugee camps in Nepal waiting to be accepted for resettlement.  The majority of refugees are never resettled.  Over the past ten years only 836,500 refugees have been granted the opportunity, compared with 15.4 million people in the world who claimed refugee status last year alone.  Less than 1% of refugees are ever resettled into other countries. 3. Most refugees want to work 2nd shift so they can go to English as a second language classes.  In Charlotte, the top 3 industries that hire refugees are distribution warehouses, food packaging and preparation, and hospitality. 4. Refugees do pay taxes just like the rest of us.  They are immediately and permanently authorized to work in country upon arrival.  Employers also receive tax credits for hiring refugees. 5. Many refugees want to become citizens, but they must wait 5 years after arrival and pass the citizenship test.  Before they are granted citizenship, they are considered stateless, and lack many basic
"I just want to have a place for when I cross to the other side"....These words were spoken by an 83 year old woman who called Catholic Charities after a visit to her doctor.  Her health was failing and her steps were now slower.  She shared that after living a full life, facing death brought a terrifying fear.  It was not death she feared; instead she feared what would happen to her body at the time of her death.  This once proud now frail woman spoke of taking care of her husband of 65 years until his death.   After her husband's passing, making ends meet was tough.  There were days she did not eat so that she could afford her medicine; other days she did not take her medication so that the pills would last through the month. As the years passed and her health failed, her expenses increased.  The visit to the doctor helped to bring about a stark realization, one day she would not be here.  She wondered where would she go, what will happen to her? There was no life insurance, no prepaid plans, and no excess money each month.  Every bit of income was used to sustain

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Being a parent is a huge responsibility, but imagine being a teenager AND a parent! Here are some tips for helping teen parents face the challenges of being teenagers and parenting. Though it seems tough, teen parents can be successful with the help of positive supportive family and friends. Criticism and judgments are not helpful. It is vital for teen parents to receive the encouragement and support necessary to navigate their teenage years and be the best parent they can be to their child.  With such positivity, teen parents are more likely to be successful in their relationships, as a parent, and in school. They are more likely to live healthy lives and avoid risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, and repeating a pregnancy. Regular medical care for both the teen parent and her/his child is important. Well baby check-ups should be kept as scheduled by the pediatrician. Immunizations should always be up-to-date and current. The teen parent’s health is as important as that of the baby in order for the teen to maintain their busy lifestyle. The teen parent needs to practice healthy living by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest and managing stress. As

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  $163 will buy a lot of things.  It will pay an electric bill, a cable bill, or a phone bill.  It will fill prescriptions.  It will purchase a bus ticket from Greensboro to Oklahoma City.  It will even purchase a used copy of a college textbook.  Every now and then, $163 will be enough to transform a life.   We met a 21 year old Billy and his mother, Mae, when they visited the Catholic Charities food pantry.  Mae had difficulty walking because of a chronic leg problem.  We were impressed by how attentive Billy was to Mae as he helped her with every cautious step.  Although Billy is 21, he functions on the level of a 12 year old.  Apparently Billy's father abused him when he was a baby.  The head injury resulted in severe a developmental delay.  Billy was not able to graduate from high school and Mae is unable to work.   We spoke to Billy about his dreams.  He spoke of his dreams to learn to drive and of his hope to one day work  to earn money to support his Mom and make life easier for her.  He also dreams of one day being able to see a movie in a real

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The Church urges Catholics to participate in political life.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "It is necessary that all participate, according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person ... As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (see nos. 1913-1915).  Catholics are called to political involvement that is guided by moral principles, with the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death being the paramount principle from which all others flow.  The Church does not serve the interests of a particular party or interest group, but calls all people of good will to see the inherent value of human life, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.  Once this is accepted as our grounding moral principle, we naturally will want to work to protect human life and nurture human life to fulfillment, which means working to meet the needs of those marginalized in society, and giving voice to those who lack a strong voice to protect their human rights and their well-being. The primary public policy and advocacy tool in

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A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit, Proverbs 15:13 NIV. Clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder is a common yet often debilitating condition for individuals and significantly impacts our society as a whole.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health it affects 14.8 million individuals, which amounts to nearly 7% of the American population.  While Major Depressive Disorder can develop at any age the average age of onset is 32.  It is also the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44, second only to chronic back and neck pain in disability days per year for Americans according to the American Psychiatric Association. The economic cost of depression is also noted to be quite substantial.  According to Greenberg PE, Kessler RC, Birnbaum HG, et. al., in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2003, the overall cost of depression in the United States is estimated to exceed 83.1 billion in 2000. Symptoms of depression include sadness or depressed mood more days than not, markedly diminished interest or sense of pleasure, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, hopelessness, recurrent thoughts of suicide or death, sleep disruptions, lack of energy or fatigue, problems with concentration and significant

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She shows up four hours early on food pantry days to be first in line. On a frosty morning, I invite her to come inside and warm up, but she declines.  She wants to stay outside, where the sun is shining.  She tells me she got used to harsh conditions when she was in the military.   As we talk more, she tells me about her son. Her face lights up when she speaks of him. He is a special needs child, and she sees him as her gift from God. She is a single mother who holds down a job, and does whatever it takes to care for her child. She came to Catholic Charities because she cannot make ends meet each month. When all the bills are paid and car is filled with gas to travel to work, there is little is left for groceries.  She tells me the first time she came to Catholic Charities, it was with great reluctance. She didn’t like asking for help, but her child comes before her pride. She is certain things will get better. Until then, she comes knowing she will be treated with respect and leave with her dignity intact. She is
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Partners in Hope 2014 The Piedmont Triad Office of Catholic Charities hosted their 11th Annual Partners in Hope Benefit in Winston-Salem on February 27, 2014.  More than 600 people attended the event and helped to raise $214,000 for services that Catholic Charities provides in and around the Winston-Salem area.Thank you to our donors, sponsors and participants for partnering with Catholic Charities to provide life-changing services to the Piedmont Triad Region.Because of your partnership:  199 people received direct assistance when faced with an urgent crisis due to a job loss, a health issue, or a problem that threatened safety or housing. 1,049 direct counseling services helped to save marriages, strengthen families, and transform lives by helping those coping with crisis, trauma, and anxiety. 68 families with babies born to teen parents received support and parenting assistance. Of the 10 high school seniors, all of them graduated, and 8 went on to college or trade school. 147 families with teens in crisis received ongoing support to cope and thrive. 115,510 pounds of food and personal items were distributed to 3,488 people. All were invited to visit the pantry every month throughout the year. Half of the visitors were vulnerable children and the elderly. 18 women were assisted

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Gala for Hope 2014 Thank you to everyone who supported and attended the 2014 Gala for Hope in Asheville on February 22, 2014.  Approximately 240 people attended event in Asheville and raised $84,000 for programs in Asheville.  The funds collected will be able to provide services to those most vulnerable in Asheville and Buncombe County. Contributions last year provided: 622 direct bi-lingual counseling services to help save marriages, improve parenting skills, and help individuals facing depression, anxiety and trauma-related issues.170 pregnancy support and adoption services to protect and nurture life.156 refugees from 8 different countries received services to ease
the transition in becoming self-sustaining members of their communities.755 immigration services, including citizenship workshops.100,607 lbs. of food and supplies to 2,922 people. Half were vulnerable children and the elderly.1,154 people with 1,157 bags of clothing including coats, so that all family members could stay warm this winter. Thank you to our 2014 Sponsors for helping us reach for our goal of $90,000. Crowne Plaza Tennis & Golf Resort AshevilleMr. George O. Pfaff
Dr. Felix & Mrs. Linda SarubbiPreferred Properties of AshevillePreferred Storage
Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care
Wells Fargo BankBrown Properties, Inc.
Groce Funeral Home & Cremation ServiceKnights of Columbus NC District 16Mark D. Scheiderich, DMD PAFresh Wood Fired Pizza &
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