by Bob Reddy, (Editor, Florida Catholic Venice Edition)
FLORIDA CATHOLIC – In the Gospels Jesus cautioned that on Judgment Day we will be asked how we treated the poor. Did we welcome the stranger into our home? Did we feed the poor? Did we clothe them?
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Venice finds the poor at their doorstep each day. Those people in need may come in the face of a family whose primary provider is out of work and needs some food or financial assistance to get by. It may be the mother of a newborn who has nowhere else to turn. It may be a young child who is given the basics for a successful education.
For the past 10 years Catholic Charities Annual Christmas Appeal has reached out seeking donations to help the poor and marginalized in Southwest Florida. This yearâ€™s goal is $450,000.
Catholic Charities, through its efficiency and coordination of effort makes the most of the generous donations from its benefactors. Catholic Charities uses 94 cents of each dollar toward the 38 programs it operates to help serve more than 40,600 clients each year. Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of charitable organizations, once again rated Catholic Charities a 4-Star Charity. The Annual Christmas Appeal helps people throughout the year.
â€śPlease remember that every number represents a child, family or individual who relied on the support of Catholic Charities to get through a crisis,â€ť Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. â€śYour gift to this year’s Christmas Appeal will allow Catholic Charities to continue the important work of helping the most vulnerable in our community. To all who have sustained the worthwhile work that has allowed Catholic Charities to serve those in need, I am deeply grateful.â€ť
With demand for aid up more than 50 percent over the past several years, the impact each dollar donated is exponentially more important, said Catholic Charities CEO Peter Routsis-Arroyo.
â€śWe are limited in our ability to serve all who seek our assistance based on the generosity of our donors,â€ť Routsis-Arroyo explained. â€śHowever, we are blessed to have donors who have been generous in the past and this appeal helps the needy in our communities not only through the Christmas Season but throughout the year.â€ť
Catholic Charities helps needy children, the lonely elderly, the migrant farm workers, the refugee and the family in crisis. â€śThey are all Godâ€™s children,â€ť Routsis-Arroyo said.
Each day, food banks operated by Catholic Charities throughout the Diocese of Venice feed the hungry and help get them through another week. Clothing banks offer basic necessities to the most vulnerable persons.
Mothers and their children who are on the verge of homelessness have a residential program to help them become self-sufficient. Material such as diapers, baby clothing and car seats are provided. Our Motherâ€™s House in Venice has 17 mothers in their program this Christmas.
Our Motherâ€™s House Program Director Joyce Scott said the Christmas Appeal does much
And allows it to keep
goes a long way to maintaining the program and keeping up with the needs of the mothers and their children. â€śIt is a big job helping these mothers. Donations and support make the difference between having these mothers in a safe environment to raise their young children or out on the streets.â€ť
Even with a recent expansion, there is always a waiting list for mothers to enter into the program. When a mother completes the two year program, which includes life-skills, job-skills classes as well as counseling in an effort to ensure they are never in jeopardy of becoming homeless again.
Other programs cover senior services, which includes counseling to frail seniors to help them remain independent and vital. Case management services are also provided at two assisted-living facilities.
Catholic Charities recently dedicated a St. Dominic Manor a renovated set of six duplexes in Sarasota. The work was done thanks to Catholic Charities participation in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. This provided funding to help improve blighted neighborhoods. St. Dominic is the first of two such projects; the second is expected to be completed in 2012.
Another vital part of the work of Catholic Charities is accomplished by providing education services to youth and adults. At-risk youth receive early childhood education at St. Marthaâ€™s Early Learning Center in Sarasota. Catholic Charities also offers after-school and summer tutoring to children in Fort Myers and Naples.
Adults seeking to better their current situation can receive job training, along with classes in English as a second language, computer skills and citizenship courses.
These programs are just the tip of the iceberg of what happens each day in Catholic Charities offices throughout the Diocese of Venice. Without your support of the 10th Annual Christmas Appeal it would be difficult to maintain all of these programs. Please consider a gift and, if you can, please be generous.