Catholic Charities serves the community in several ways

This story originally appeared in the Jefferson City Buz. Read the full story online: Jefferson City Buz

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri is working hard to make sure their community is cared for. Through food delivery, and even assistance in immigration, the organization is ready to offer any help to those in need.

“Our mission statement is to provide compassionate care through the healing ministry of Jesus and create hope for a better life for our neighbors who are challenged by poverty of mind, body, emotion, and spirit,” said Executive Director Dan Lester. “We accomplish this effort not solely on our own but in partnership with other agencies and by engaging the local community in our efforts.”

The organization is most known for their Refugee Resettlement Program. Established over 40 years ago, Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri has taken in families who have been driven from their home due to war, terror, or violence. The organization has helped welcome refugees into the state of Missouri through immigration legal services, trained staff, work permits, green cards, and deferred action for childhood arrivals.

However, their work does not stop there. While organization members are always willing and able to guide families toward a path to citizenship, they are also dedicated to their local community.

“One of our programs is the Senior Food Box Program here in Cole County,” Lester said. “We are delivering a supplemental (30 pound) box of food to low-income seniors right to their doorsteps every single month and we serve about 135 to 140 of them depending on the enrollment of seniors.”

According to Lester, in 2020 they delivered about 16,000 meals of food in addition to the year prior. Because of this Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri is extremely proud of their work and will continue to assist the community through programs such as their Disaster and Response Program.

“We do a lot of long-term disaster case management which really helping folks who’ve been impacted by floods or tornadoes and other natural disasters recover and get back on their feet,” Lester said. “Real recovery is a marathon not a sprint and so to meet people’s immediate needs for food and shelter, that’s really critical after a disaster. It takes quite a while for some folks to get fully recovered especially if they’ve lost everything in a big event. That’s why we have staff who are still working with folks who were impacted by the Jefferson City tornado.”

Coming up on two years, it is important to the organization that they keep up with their recovery efforts. The community has always been a major focus for them and as they continue, they will be working directly with Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Jefferson City as they support them in their own charitable activities.

“A lot of parishes have soup kitchens, or they have clothes closets, or they do food pantries and we think that’s wonderful,” Lester continued. “We love that our Catholic churches are hubs of charity in that way and what we try to do is just make sure that people in the community know about those events.”

Unfortunately, Catholic Charities had to switch as many of their personal services to remote services due to the coronavirus pandemic. Staff was trained to consider whether an appointment could be done over phone or zoom call to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“We shifted as much as we could to remote work,” Lester said. “We did a lot of just internal scheduling with our staff of making sure we had people rotating through our offices, making sure they have the technology to work from home. Just trying to be adaptable in that way.”

Lester acknowledges that there are still individuals that the organization cannot fully meet with in person. However, he is optimistic that with extra cleaning measures and the new COVID vaccine that they should be able to operate normally soon.

The organization is always looking for people who are interested in volunteering. Catholic Charities are more than happy to engage with anyone who would like to work with refugees, the parish, their senior food box program, or would like to donate.

“There are volunteer needs across all of our programming efforts and funding is what makes nonprofits able to do their work,” Lester said. “If folks who are interested in making a charitable contribution, that’s always welcome as well. People can get online and they can send checks directly to us here at Catholic Charities. We’ve made it easy on our website if folks want to target their donation towards a particular program, or if they want to target their donation towards our renovation, they can select which of those they want to do through our website.”

Lester went on to emphasize that their organization serves any individual or family who is in need within the community, regardless of religion, background, beliefs, or circumstance.

“You don’t have to be Catholic to come and get help at Catholic Charities. We will serve people regardless,” Lester said. “I think that’s an important reminder to put out there. That we are going to help everyone