For Angie, Catholic Charities’ Miriam House in Norwalk was a chance to get her life together. “My whole life did a 180 because of everyone there.”

Angie now works as a legal assistant and loves her job. But it was quite a struggle to get to where she is now.

Everything Was Going Wrong

Angie lost her job after taking time off due to illness. Without income,she lost her car too. All of the stress made it even more difficult to find a job. One thing after another was going wrong for Angie. She spent half a year moving from place to place until a friend told her about Miriam House.

“I was scared, actually, at first. The staff members were very supportive and kind to me and helped me out in so many ways.”

After moving into Miriam House in July of 2010, it took Angie two months to find a job. She worked the night shift at a nursing home and had to ride her bike or walk to her job no matter what the weather conditions were.

Eventually Angie was able to begin classes to become a state tested nursing assistant. She took the classes while still working nights at the nursing home and doing her chores at Miriam House. Once she was certified, Angie was able to maintain a full-time job at the nursing home.

Becoming a Responsible Adult

[singlepic id=50 w=320 h=240 float=right]Angie stayed at Miriam House for eight months. When she moved in, she says she did not know how to live as a responsible adult. The staff at Miriam House taught her how to manage her finances, take care of herself, and become self-sustaining.

“I did feel accomplished and proud of myself, but also grateful for the help I received in the Miriam House.”

Angie felt really down and emotional at times. With everything going on, she needed someone to talk to. The staff listened to Angie and they found her a free counselor. “They helped me get a different outlook on myself and my life.

“I will never forget what the Miriam House staff members did to help me become a better person. In a way, they saved my life. They taught me responsibility and were kind and caring to me when I was at the lowest of the lows. I now have the tools to take care of myself, which in turn is making it easier to want to be the best I can be at all times.”

Things Start Coming Together

After working full-time for a month and a half, Angie made enough money to get an apartment and Miriam House staff helped her find furniture. She saved up her money and bought a car, too.

“They treated us like human beings, with kindness and respect. They are very good people there.”

Angie was able to move closer to her family and obtained her current job as a legal assistant.

“I am so grateful to the staff members.They never gave up on me and that was pretty awesome.”

One hour before being taken off life-support, Brianne’s heart miraculously started beating on its own. She had been on life-support for three and a half months before her family made the decision to pull the plug.

“I woke up to a different world”

Before that, Brianne had suffered through a massive heart attack at age 26, followed by a stroke that caused her to go blind in her right eye and multiple open-heart surgeries. After waking up, her whole life was turned upside down.

“I woke up and realized I couldn’t walk.” Due to being on life-support for three and a half months, Brianne lost her job and with no income she lost her house, too.

New Problems

“My teeth were decaying and painful due to all the medications. The doctors told me if I didn’t have them out within a year, I could die from the (gum disease and gingivitis) infections that were in my mouth.”

Brianne saw a Catholic Charities’ pamphlet about getting financial help with medications. She had never heard of Catholic Charities before but decided to call and ask for help. She attended a workshop about medications and when she mentioned her problems with infections, Laurie of Catholic Charities in Mansfield listened and told Brianne that Catholic Charities could help.

Brianne said, “I was scared and really embarrassed. Before having my teeth removed, trying to face family and friends looking the way I did with my rotted teeth was a sheer nightmare. Without having my teeth removed, I would have died, and that’s a scary thing.”

Family dentists wouldn’t treat Brianne because of the risk with her heart. Laurie connected her with oral surgeons at a dental school and Catholic Charities was able to help with funding the procedure and her new smile.

“God was looking over me. I feel much better physically since having my teeth removed because I am no longer in the tremendous amount of pain I was in,” said Brianne, now age 34.

Saved Again

“I’ve realized that God wanted me to live. Not only have I been saved once, but I’ve also been saved twice. Now I have more confidence in myself because I have a beautiful smile. I feel amazing. I feel like a whole different person – I am a different person really. I know that there’s actually someone out there that does care”

“Don’t ever give up when there is hope out there. There is an angel somewhere and Catholic Charities has been my angel. They have really been a blessing to me.”

“Catholic Charities has given me a chance to live, and I pray each day and thank God for Laurie and the Catholic Charities organization for all their help and support. Without Catholic Charities in my life, I might not be here today.”

Thankful

“I finally have my smile back and it means the world to me. I can finally regain confidence through my smile and not feel ashamed to speak.”

“Thank God for Catholic Charities. I feel I have my life back now. I thank God and all those involved that I will live a healthy, strong life.”

Gratitude, confidence and hope have replaced the darker days that left Pam Belew feeling as if the bottom had fallen out. In the not-too-distant past, the 58-year-old grandmother of 9-year-old Cory, whom she has legally adopted, struggled to parent and provide. She was unemployed, homeless and suffered from anxiety and depression.

[singlepic id=52 w=400 h=300 float=right]“I really never thought people would be so supportive and caring,” Pam says of the people she’s encountered through Catholic Charities’ Supportive Housing program.

Pam’s beginning with the program came about after good intentions gave way to a downhill spiral of events in 2011. In 2010, Pam and Cory had moved from Ohio to Florida to live with her son, Cory’s father. Things didn’t work out and not long after, she and Cory returned to Toledo.

With no job or home, Pam and Cory moved in with her mother who was living in senior housing. But that was a temporary situation and she realized she had to do the unthinkable – contact a homeless shelter. “I cried my eyes out every day,” she recalls of that desperate time.

Then a God thing happened. Someone at the shelter told her about Catholic Charities. “They interviewed me and I qualified for the program,” she says. Soon, Catholic Charities paved the way to secure housing – and ultimately, a brighter future – for Pam and Cory.

“Pam’s self-esteem was very low when she entered the program and being the age that she is, she felt it would be hard to get a job,” says her caseworker, Vickie Williams. “I suggested to her a few times that maybe she should go to school. She eventually made the decision to enter Stautzenberger College’s phlebotomy technician course.”

Initially intimidated, Pam ultimately graduated from the program and is now actively seeking work in her new field. “It was scary to go back to school,” says Pam. “Everyone was so much younger than I was.”

“Throughout the entire time that Pam went to school she was determined to get good grades, and that she did,” says Vickie. “She also knew the expectations of our program and continued to manage her apartment and set goals for herself.” Addressing her mental health issues – and taking care of her overall health – was also required to manage the depression and anxiety that had been derailing her.

Catholic Charities remains by her side as she forges ahead amid trials that test her spirit.

“Cory is doing exceptionally well,” says Pam, a testimony to her success in creating a new future for them both and setting a great example for her grandson. It shows in little Cory’s smile and energy as he plays with other kids in the neighborhood. “I thought he’d be more affected” by the moves and his experience with homelessness, she adds.

But she believes one thing for sure, “Without Catholic Charities none of this would have been possible. They’ve created opportunities for me. I am so thankful for the donors. Please let them know.”

Mothers relax on couches in La Posada’s common room while students from Bowling Green State University watch the children play outside on the playground. This evening, one-year-old Christopher stayed inside with his mom and entertains the Bible study group with his antics.

[singlepic id=55 w=400 h=300 float=right]Peter Range, 31, campus minister for St. Thomas More University Parish, leads the group of La Posada guests in reading Acts: 3 about the coming of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is someone we can invoke and should invoke every day of our lives,” he tells the residents.

Peter began helping people in need by serving in soup kitchens in downtown Cleveland while he was as a student at John Carroll University. He later participated in the university’s St. Joseph Labre program. He and other young adults followed the example of the Jesuit priest by preparing meals on Friday nights and taking the meals to the homeless in the streets.

“Christ spent a lot of time with the poor – in solidarity with the poor – and we’re called to do the same,” Peter said.  “We’re meant to have, as a Catholic people, a preferential option for the poor.”

“When we think about giving back or serving Christ, we should always think first and foremost about how to serve the poor. It’s in serving that we recognize we’re all in this together and that we’re not that much different from those who are struggling – whether that be materially or spiritually or otherwise. That we are one church, one family. And that we have one ultimate destination and that is to get to heaven.”

When he works with the homeless, Peter always feels like he encounters Christ. At La Posada, he wants the guests to hear the message that they are loved by God and have a purpose for their life.  He shares his own story with the guests and invites the others to do the same. Guests are encouraged to talk openly about their lives and the struggles they have been through.

One evening, John* shared his story about getting off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. Another guest began to cry even before it was her turn to share her own story of escaping an abusive relationship.

Life is tough, Peter said, and the Bible study is a group of people who can be together while getting through those tough times and knowing what is important: God and each other.

“It’s kind of like a reassurance – just that Word in the middle of the week,” said Christina, a guest of La Posada. “You can be feeling down and come to the Bible study and hear something that will help you or lift you up.”

A couple of things that Peter pointed out in the Gospel of Matthew helped her. “I’m going to start reading that every day to help me – about not worrying about tomorrow.”

Peter believes he learns more from the guests than he teaches them.  “You recognize that life is very difficult,” he said. “That life can be challenging, that you can feel like you want to give up sometimes, but there is always hope, and that hope is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.

“Often I go down to teach them Scripture, but I learn twice as much about perseverance, about true hope in Christ,” he adds.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

Many suffer in silence after an abortion without knowing that hope and healing are possible. But there is help for those who are suffering … there is Project Rachel.

“Many women and men suffer so deeply from abortion,” said Fonda Luersman, a post-abortion advocate of Project Rachel for Catholic Charities. “It’s beautiful to see the healing that happens. Women open up and break the silence so the wound is able to be healed.”

So Many Affected

[singlepic id=54 w=320 h=240 float=right]By age 45 more than half of all American women experience an unintended pregnancy and about one third of those women get an abortion. Eighteen percent of American women who get an abortion are teenagers.

After an abortion, women and men can suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some immediately feel pain, realizing what they have done, and turn to drugs or alcohol or other unhealthy ways to numb the pain. Others may experience denial and wait years to work through the emotions related to the abortion.

“The healings I have seen have been profound. We want to help move them toward that healing,” said Fonda. “Project Rachel brings in both sides; spiritual healing and psychological healing.”

Reaching Out

Project Rachel aims to reach out to as many who are suffering as possible by training priests and mental health professionals in order to better serve those who need healing.

In May, Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo was the second diocese in the U.S. to host training from the Project Rachel team of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The training helped priests, counselors and diocesan staff to know how to help and how to make referrals to Project Rachel. The team included directors of the Project Rachel programs in Washington, D.C. and Boston as well as Tom Grenchik, executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-life Activities.

Learning Their Role

“It was one of the most informative educational experiences of priesthood in the past few years,” Father Michael Dandurand said of the training. He used what he learned during the training just three days later to help someone in need. “That’s God working.”

The 35 priests who attended learned about working with and ministering to post-abortive mothers and fathers as well as others who have been affected by an abortion, such as grandparents and extended family members, close friends, abortion survivors, siblings of aborted children and former abortion providers.

They learned how the Sacrament of Reconciliation plays a key role in this ministry and what their role can be in post-abortive counseling and healing for each person affected. “I want women who have had an abortion to know the church is here for them for healing and reconciliation with no judgment,” Fr. Dandurand said.

Further Project Rachel Initiatives

For those seeking help, there is a confidential helpline to connect them with various opportunities for healing, including a support group, professional counseling, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and pastoral and spiritual guidance. The support group for women and men who suffer after an abortion is called Fountain of Mercy and meets twice a month. Information can also be found at www.catholiccharitiesnwo.org and www.hopeafterabortion.com. To reach the local confidential helpline, please call 1-888-456-HOPE.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

Despite the rain, participants of the 2013 Catholic Charities Glass City Marathon Team were energized on April 28 to raise money for Catholic Charities’ ministries in northwest Ohio.

Thanks to the perseverance and generosity of our runners, the team of 20 runners raised $10,000 for our ministries. Participants of all skill levels joined Catholic Charities’ efforts, participating in the 5K, half marathon, relay race and full marathon.

“Whenever I found myself getting tired during training runs or on race day, I thought of the testimonies we’ve heard from Catholic Charities’ clients and thought of their struggles to find some peace and happiness in their lives,” said Ellen Huntebrinker. “And I realized my struggles while running were nothing in comparison.”

Walkers and Runners Welcome for Next Year’s Team

[singlepic id=51 w=320 h=240 float=right]Next year is Catholic Charities’ 100th anniversary. Our team israising the bar by increasing the goal to $25,000. We hope more people will join us in making a difference in people’s lives by raising money to support our ministries.

We welcome people of all ages to join the team, from those who want to walk the 5K to those who want to take on the challenge of the full marathon. Children are also welcome to raise money for Catholic Charities by running in the children’s races.

Race registration opens after Labor Day at www.glasscitymarathon.org. Visit our Glass City Marathon Team page for information on how to join the Catholic Charities team.

AUG. 28, 2013—Catholic Charities is offering a free educational service to help with budgeting, paying off debt and saving for the future.  Financial Life Skills workshops will be offered 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 at Catholic Charities’ offices at 34 Woodlawn Ave. in Norwalk.

To register for either workshop or for more information, please contact Catholic Charities Case Manager Marla Sommers at 419-668-3073, ext. 103. Funding for the workshops is provided by United Fund and Key Bank Foundation.

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love God has for each individual regardless of faith or background, by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end, and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

Catholic Charities Northwest Ohio