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A Call to Serve and Save Lives

By Judith Mutamba

You may know that cardiovascular diseases are among the leading cause of premature death in the USA and, indeed, across counties in Missouri.

Common cases of cardiovascular disease we see frequently in our communities and in our families are heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney diseases — the main risk factor of these diseases is hypertension, or high blood pressure.

You may be more familiar with these terms than you’d like to be, and if you are dealing with cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, then you know the effect it can have on your life, livelihood and ability to reach your health goals.

Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to discomfort, emergency room visits, hospitalization, incapacitation and most tragically premature mortality.

But you, and those you love, can manage high blood pressure to feel healthier, reduce pain and inflammation, and avoid hospital trips — and Catholic Charities can help.

In the Mid-MO Self-Management of Blood Pressure (SMBP) program, a four-month-long program recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for its ability to lower and better manage blood pressure, participants work alongside a trained facilitator to learn and manage their health.

The results are wonderful! Participants in the SMBP program note lower blood pressure, increased awareness of triggers that cause the blood pressure to elevate, better eating habits and a newfound confidence in communicating their health needs and goals to their healthcare team.

It is heartening for me to see many participants move through this program successfully, but I know we could never do this work without the trained volunteers in local communities who give their time in service to others.

Volunteers are the life-blood of our work at Catholic Charities.

Alongside over 50 staff members, hundreds of people volunteer their time and their skills to carrying-out our mission in local communities across the Diocese of Jefferson City.

With over 1,000 active volunteers, and hundreds who regularly sign up to serve, our programs can reach beyond those who visit Catholic Charities in person and into underserved counties in our service area.

One of these amazing volunteers is Margie Luebbert.

In her 40-year career, she spent long hours working as a nurse in different capacities before retirement.

 Upon retirement, one would have expected Margie to be enjoying family life.

On the contrary, Margie drives at least twice a week from her Osage County home to Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri in Jefferson City, where she works as a health care volunteer.

Today she is a trained facilitator for Catholic Charities’ SMBP program, volunteering her time and talents to meet with clients during her SMBP office hours and journey with them towards better health.

Watching Margie and listening to her chatting with prospective and enrolled participants in the SMBP program, one wonders whether she developed the healthcare skills solely from nursing or from her profound faith-based background, which resonates with the Catholic Charities values of serving others.

It is an added blessing to us that Margie is able to not only help facilitate the SMBP program, but refer those she meets with into wrap-around services in Catholic Charities Health and Nutrition that can address food insecurity and other health needs.

Through the Senior Food Box program, supported by the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, our agency is able to deliver USDA food boxes to adults 60 years and older.

Through the Walk With Ease and Steps to Healthy Living classes, supported by MU Extension and Aging Best, clients can increase physical activity and manage chronic pain — bringing comfort and joy back into their daily lives.

Through a myriad of partnerships with SSM St. Mary’s Hospital we are addressing food insecurity, and looking forward to Fall programs that will nourish patients and community members.

Alongside our staff, our trusted volunteers also help us address public health and food insecurity at Catholic Charities by volunteering with the Senior Food Box program, stocking and checking out neighbors in the Catholic Charities Food Pantry, assisting with Walk With Ease classes, and more.

As the director of health and nutrition services I appreciate the opportunity we have as Catholic Charities, to work collaboratively with our key partners to serve in the community.

It is gratifying to see organizations collaborate to combine resources that magnify and make our offerings more accessible to communities across our diocese.

I believe in teamwork and collaboration, wherein our ability to combine forces, knowledge, expertise, and practical guidance improve the quality of life for those we reach.

We owe it, as we serve our clients, to deliver support that benefits their health since there is only one life to live.

Whenever I teach a class or encounter a new client the idea of health and hope comes into my mind — and I believe that together we can do it.

Judith R. Mutamba (Bs MMSc, MS) is the Director of Health and Nutrition Services at Catholic Charities.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics — Food and Nutrition with emphasis in Dietetics from the University of Missouri (MU), a Masters of Medical Sciences from University of Uppsalla (Sweden), and a second Masters in Nutrition Exercise & Physiology from MU.

She is currently a doctoral student in health administration with the University of Phoenix, Arizona. Judith’s passion is on addressing chronic diet-related diseases.

She sees her role and mission, as that of translating relevant research into action — addressing chronic health disparities and working with other partners in the under-served communities.

To learn more about Catholic Charities’ health and nutrition services programs, visit us online at