J. got her discharge from the Air Force in 1999, and since then, life has been difficult.
Chronic illness and back pain left her unable to finish her nursing degree.
Eventually, she lost her home and her car. Sadly, she had been living on the couches of friends and relatives for a year-and-a-half before she was referred to the Mansfield office of Catholic Charities by her Veteran’s Administration social worker.
Catholic Charities helped her with a deposit on a modest apartment, and a local retailer provided her with a bed set and basic furnishings, as well as a phone card to assist in her job search. J.’s ongoing rent payments are covered by a government H.U.D. program for veterans. But the program doesn’t cover deposits – which is where Catholic Charities was able to help.
‘The good you do is amazing’
A trip to Catholic Charities’ H.O.P.E. Pantry provided her with food staples and personal supplies. But it’s been difficult for J. to take assistance. “I always feel I should be giving rather than taking,” she said. Nonetheless, she is very grateful for what she has received:
“I don’t know where I would be today if it weren’t for the people at Catholic Charities. The good you do for people is nothing short of amazing.”
When Traci lost her job due to an unexpected illness, Catholic Charities helped her family get back on track.
Traci is a young widow from Mansfield who’s working to support her daughter and her two grandchildren. “I was working a good job, but I got sick and needed surgery. They kept me on the payroll for a while, but then they couldn’t any longer. Eventually even my unemployment ran out.”
Placing children at risk
[singlepic id=42 w=320 h=240 float=right]“I had no job, no place else to go. I didn’t know what to do. You don’t just lose your home if you’ve lost your job and have two little granddaughters depending on you. You lose them too. A friend of mine said I should call Catholic Charities to ask if they could help. I never even heard of them before that. But I thank God she said that, because they’ve been wonderful.”
What makes Catholic Charities different, Traci said, is that they don’t just tell you to fill out forms and get in line. They actually work with you to make sure you’re doing what you need to do. “They helped me with my rent and told me about the pantry so I could get some help putting food on my table.”
‘I wanted to tell people thank you’
“They visited me at home, found out what was going on and what I needed. Then they helped my daughter get signed up for school. And when they found that I’d suffered the loss of my husband, they even suggested I sign up for grief counseling.
“They really help you. They get involved. They get you on the right track. I’ve had wonderful caseworkers. I am so grateful to them.
“What really helped me was the budgeting class they give. It let me know how to handle my money better, so things don’t get out of control.”
Asked what she would say to the people who support Catholic Charities, Traci paused. Her eyes welled up with tears. “That’s why I said I would let you do a story about me. I wanted to tell people thank you. This is a wonderful group of people. If not for you, people like me who don’t have a job, who don’t have anywhere to turn, would be lost.
“God blesses everyone who helps others. I know he will bless you.”
Helping others is one of the most important lessons taught at the Foundation Academy in Mansfield. Which is why the students there conduct a food drive each year.
The theme of this year’s effort is ‘Feeding Others Feeds Us.’ Students throughout the K through 9 charter school are encouraged to bring in non-perishable items – peanut butter, soups, canned meats, paper goods, etc. – which this year were donated to Catholic Charities’ H.O.P.E. Pantry in Mansfield.
An entire SUV filled with good things
The amount of food collected was impressive, filling the entire rear compartment of a Suburban SUV.
Krista Wade, a school mother who helped to organize the effort, said that in the past her family has been helped by the H.O.P.E. Pantry.
“My husband was a contractor, and there were times food was scarce. It helped knowing we could get help when we needed it,” she said.
Individuals in need benefit from the H.O.P.E. Pantry donations.
“We depend on the generosity of individuals and organizations like the Foundation Academy,” said Patrice Scott, Community Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Charities in Mansfield. “We’re grateful to those kids and their parents. Without people like them, we couldn’t be doing what we do.”
Baby Spencer was looking smart, all decked out for the photo shoot in his bow tie and new sweater. Of course it helps that when you’re just six weeks old, you don’t really have any old clothes.
Mom and Dad, Debbie and Todd, were as proud as any new parents you’ll ever see. And even more grateful than most, perhaps, since Spencer’s arrival was so long awaited and so intensely prayed for.
[singlepic id=43 w=320 h=240 float=right]“Holding a new baby is so amazing – you’re holding new life,” Debbie says, unable to tear her eyes away from her child.
Even the story of Spencer’s arrival is inspiring. Todd and Debbie, who live in Toledo, took adoption parenting classes through Catholic Charities, finishing up in July of 2012. The baby’s nursery was finished, the paperwork was filled out and the home visits were completed, but they were never exactly sure if they were on anyone’s short list for consideration as adoptive parents.
Franciscan prayer partners
Then one day this past January, Debbie discovered that her adoption assessor from Catholic Charities had posted a prayer resource on Facebook.
“A community of Franciscan brothers were accepting prayer requests. So I asked them to pray that Todd and I receive a baby and also that they pray for the child’s birth parents,” she said.
The very next day they were called to come to a local hospital to meet with a birth mother. Naturally, they supposed they were going to another interview appointment. But they hadn’t factored in the power of prayer.
They went home from the hospital that day with a new, very sweet, incalculably cute, and very, very funny baby boy.
“We were surprised and thrilled. When we drove there, we didn’t even know the baby had been born yet,” Todd recalled. “As soon as they put him in my arms, I knew he was mine. You just naturally fall in love. It was like he was meant to be with us all along,” Debbie said.
Thanks be to God – and to the brothers of good St. Francis.