Kathleen Donahue-Coia

Continuing work in the pandemic

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to radically alter daily life, I want to take this opportunity to thank the community for the prayers, volunteer efforts and donations that you have offered to Catholic Charities over these past weeks. As our history shows, times like these can bring out the best in people coming together to care for one another in inspiring and creative ways. 

Catholic Charities was formed in 1917, just before the Spanish influenza epidemic began to take its devastating effect. During that time, Catholic Charities staff were stationed on the front lines of the pandemic, offering services to those most in need, including orphans, veterans, families and the elderly across our archdiocese.

A newly formed and very active board of advisers guided the agency, ensuring those living in poverty had access to much-needed resources like food, housing and medical services. This foundation in crisis-response formed the bedrock of the compassionate and professional services that Catholic Charities offers today.

Over 100 years later, we remain on the front lines with social services now called “social determinants of health” during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to take care of the most vulnerable: those experiencing homelessness, the isolated and elderly, those worried about their families, finances, rent and daily food. 

I’m grateful to be able to say that since the start of the pandemic, we have served meals and food packages to more than 15,000 people, a list that continues to grow substantially every day. Catholic Charities’ home-delivered meal programs remain the primary source of daily nutrition for thousands of homebound seniors, and our evening supper program and senior centers quickly shifted from congregate dining to offering “to go” meals that are distributed by volunteers and staff following CDC protocols. 

Thanks to a generous and prudent donor, we have been able to offer a small stipend to some of our restaurant partners who typically donate meals but are now facing hard times themselves. 

Our food pantries, WIC Food and Nutrition Centers and senior nutrition program have seen unprecedented increases in requests for assistance, and Catholic Charities has been able to accommodate those requests by redeploying staff to these critical areas, as well as relying on the assistance of dedicated volunteers and donations of food, hygiene items and cleaning products from generous people  and businesses.

Our home care aides, home visitors for high risk families, mobile outreach staff and nursing home employees are unsung heroes and among some of the first responders today. The vulnerable populations served in these programs rely on Catholic Charities every day.

Following the appropriate safety protocols, our staff serve on the front lines to ensure families remain stable, the homeless are transported to shelter, homebound seniors are cared for and our nursing home residents stay safe and healthy.  

Catholic Charities’ wide array of counseling and case management services continue virtually, providing critical social and motional support remotely to people whose already challenging life circumstances have been exacerbated by the pandemic. And our call center and information and referral helplines, initially overwhelmed by the large volume of new calls, have now been bolstered by redeployed staff and well-trained volunteers.

Unfortunately, the full  extent and duration of the pandemic is not yet known, and we continue to anticipate the critical need for social services as people  navigate lost wages and industry contraction. But fortunately, just like 100 years ago, Catholic Charities’ faithful supporters are stepping up in incredible — and frankly humbling — ways. My deepest gratitude goes to all who have supported Catholic Charities, and I ask for your ongoing prayers and donations. 

As people deeply committed to the hope and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that this time of challenge is also a time of opportunity. May we all be comforted by the power of our faith and find peace in working together as one human family. 


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