Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Charities Christmas Collection launched; this year’s goal: $750,000

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 4, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

The morning of Nov. 24, Bishop William Skylstad joined Catholic Charities Executive Director Dr. Rob McCann at Spokane’s House of Charity, 35 W. Pacific Ave., to officially kick off the 2008 Catholic Charities Christmas Collection. This year’s goal is $750,000.

This is the 67th year for the annual Christmas Collection. More than 50,000 people who need assistance are helped each year by Catholic Charities’ 15 different programs, which serve based on need, not creed.

Some 30 people crowded into the House of Charity’s conference room to hear presentations by Bishop Skylstad and Dr. McCann. Five people who have been helped by Catholic Charities in recent months also told their stories and encouraged giving to this year’s Collection.

The programs of Catholic Charities, Bishop Skylstad said, “serve people who need the basic necessities of life – for example, food, clothing, safe shelter, and medical care. Catholic Charities is really a bright light in our community. Every dollar donated to the Christmas Collection will be used by Catholic Charities to help vulnerable families, fragile elderly, and homeless people here in eastern Washington.”

“If you ever want to see a bunch of social workers turning blue, come to Catholic Charities in the month of December,” said Dr. McCann. “In one month we try to raise all the money we’re going to need for next year, so it’s a very high activity time for us…. All the money stays local, and that includes all 13 counties of Eastern Washington.”

About 17 percent of last year’s collection was donated by individuals who are not members of a Catholic parish.

Catholic Charities operates 15 programs in 50 locations throughout Eastern Washington, and utilizes over 4,000 volunteers.

The agency recently received a four-star ranking from Charity Navigator. The designation is given to only 10 of the many non-profits operating in the United States.

Ron, a volunteer from Senior Services, explained that he is a recovering alcoholic soon to observe his 22nd year of being clean and sober, “and if I’m not around the clients that I mow lawns for, or clean the windows (for), or (do) whatever they need done, I don’t feel right.... It’s a miracle, and the volunteer work I do is a big part of it.”

Tim, who works part-time at the House of Charity, first benefitted from services there.

“I arrived in Spokane in July of ’07,” he said, “and now I have a fulltime job…. I arrived at the bus station, I was told about (the House of Charity). I walked in the door, and immediately I had a bed, food, clothes, and I know it is run on donations. I immediately volunteered to do whatever. They allowed me to become a proctor, which means working 20 hours a week. We do laundry, we do cleaning. Your bed is guaranteed, you have no curfew. That allows me to find the time to do other things. I got my ID back because of that, then a program came up, through the House of Charity, at the campus kitchens” at Gonzaga University – a culinary arts training program. “I am now certified to teach the course.” Now he also has a part-time job as evening cook at the Royal Plaza Retirement Center, he said.

Pam told the group that she and her 18-year-old son, who is “borderline autistic,” lived on the streets for almost two years. Since getting a place to live from Catholic Charities at Summit View Apartments, she said, “it’s been amazing; they’ve been very helpful with helping get my son back in school – he hasn’t missed a day.”

Kelly told of living at St. Margaret Shelter for about 19 months.

“I had just gotten out of drug treatment,” she said, and the program at St. Margaret “helped me have stability, have somewhere to stay, and I got my kids back. I continued my outpatient treatment and finished that. I started working at the Outback Steakhouse, and the staff (at St. Margaret’s) would always let me in the door when I got back from working late nights. Now I’m employed at St. Margaret’s part-time, and the ladies have helped me out so much. It’s good to be able to give back for all the good St. Margaret’s has done for me…. It’s a wonderful place to stay. The people at St. Margaret’s become a part of your family. I’m greatly indebted to them for the rest of my life.”

Bishop Skylstad characterized their stories as “such a source of inspiration for us. This doesn’t go one way. What you have experienced, and the inspiration you are to us, I find is a real treasure in my own life. I want to thank you for that. That’s what makes our work exciting and hopeful as we look to the future.”

“Now more than ever,” said Dr. McCann, “we need this collection and we need people’s hearts to open up to the work of Catholic Charities. I ask everyone to keep us in your prayers this month. The community here in Spokane has never let us down, and they won’t this year, either.”

Donations can be made in several ways:

• Through secure online access at:
• By postal mail to: Catholic Charities, P.O. Box 2253, Spokane, WA 99210-2253
• At Christmas Masses throughout the Spokane Diocese.

For more information about Catholic Charities and its many programs for those in need, call 358-4250.

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