Catholic Charities Fort Worth’s far-reaching impact felt across diocese during pandemic

by North Texas Catholic

April 13, 2020

lady in mask unloads grocierieslady in mask unloads groceries
Patti Lenz unloads a car as Catholic Charities Fort Worth collects donations of packaged foods, diapers and disinfecting wipes for distribution to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday, April 4, 2020. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)


FORT WORTH — Even as Catholic Charities Fort Worth faces an unprecedented level of need, the increased opportunities to be of service provide a sense of sustained motivation and determination, said the nonprofit’s CEO, Michael Grace.

“Bishop Olson, our executive committee members, our board members, and our staff members are all extremely supportive and collaborative,” Grace said. “Our community partners, the parishes and churches who work with us, everyone is on board 100 percent and ready to tackle the challenges that we are facing.”

Rural Vocations Program

“Jason,” a kinesiology major at Hill College in Hillsboro, has been setting and meeting many ambitious goals for himself over the past year, thanks to his participation in Catholic Charities Fort Worth’s Rural Vocations college completion program. When his community college’s dormitories shut down in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Jason returned home to live with his parents, but struggled to keep up with his online classes, due to the lack of internet access in his family’s rural Parker County neighborhood.

Jason’s CCFW client navigator, Rocio Ventura-Hernandez, said she is “so proud” of him and of all her clients at Hill College. “Like our other students in this [Rural Vocations] program, he is proud and didn’t want to ask for help. His parents are struggling financially due to the impact of the virus on their jobs, and he didn’t want to ask for their assistance. I discovered that he was facing this challenge, and, through Catholic Charities, he is now able to obtain hotspot access to the internet. Jason is able to continue in his studies, and he is on track to graduate on time.”

Ventura-Hernandez noted that the majority of the CCFW students in the Hill College Rural Vocations Program are first-generation college students. “The impact of the quarantine measures means that they are helping to homeschool their younger siblings and trying to keep up part-time jobs to help their families while still completing their education online. It’s a lot to handle. But Catholic Charities is right there to help them to stay focused upon their studies. They are using the tools we have been giving them to stay positive and committed to meeting their goals.”

The 300 CCFW clients who are currently enrolled in the Rural Vocations Program on eight community college campuses across the diocese are also receiving the help they need to weather the disruptions of quarantine measures.

“‘Linda’ is a sophomore at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and has been enrolled in the CCFW Rural Vocations Program since September of 2019,” wrote Rita Gauthier, CCFW senior manager of Northwest Operations in Wichita Falls. When dormitories on the Midwestern campus closed in response to the spread of the virus, Linda, one of 27 students in Midwestern’s Rural Vocations Program, found herself homeless.

“Linda works part time, making minimum wage, and cannot afford to rent an apartment on her own,” said Gauthier. “Catholic Charities’ Northwest Campus staff was able to partner with a local hotel and get her a room to rent monthly, at a price she can comfortably afford.”

Dr. Emily Klement, executive director of CCFW’s Northwest Campus, pointed out that for the agency’s Rural Vocations Program clients, “There has been no better time than now, as the virus has disrupted their lives, for these students to use the skills that we teach in financial literacy and life management. We continue to see tremendous success stories.”

CCFW client navigators work with students to help them address current challenges such as housing and food insecurity due to job loss, lack of internet access, and loss of childcare.

“We are loaning out laptops, offering internet access through hotspots, and working with our community partners to ensure that our students and their children can remain housed and fed,” Dr. Klement said. “We are working with our utility partners to make sure that there is no gap in their payments, so that we can get them to the other side of this situation. We all know that we can’t stop now, as Catholic Charities is so close to helping these resilient clients to get out of poverty for good.”

Transportation services during the time of COVID-19

At a time when most regular clients in the CCFW Transportation Program are confined to their homes, the 40 vehicles maintained in the agency’s fleet are being used less than half of usual, reported Matt Jacobs, CCFW’s transportation program manager.

The dramatic change in daily operations has provided what Jacobs referred to as a “unique opportunity to be of service in a new, but much-needed way” across the diocesan 28-county region.

Ric DeLeon (in red shirt) loading items into a CCFW transportation van to be sent to the pantries.
Ric DeLeon loads items into a CCFW transportation van to be sent to the pantries. (Photo courtesy of CCFW)  

While continuing to offer clients the usual transportation services to grocery stores, pharmacies, and medical facilities such as dialysis centers and infusion clinics, drivers are now delivering meals and groceries to clients of partner nonprofit agencies and churches serving senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and other homebound clients. Local school districts are also currently exploring the possibility of partnering with CCFW to transport meals to children in need.

“We are able to plug delivery locations into our vehicles’ routing software, ensuring that we are operating with maximum efficiency,” explained Todd Beard, who serves as CCFW’s head of social enterprises. “With the increased availability of our vehicles, we are able to mobilize our fleet to provide door-to-door meal deliveries where they are needed, and we are also able to deliver items such as canned and boxed goods and diapers to area food pantries and churches.”

An April 4 food drive resulted in more than 120 full bags of groceries that, after being safely handled, isolated, and cleaned, have now been transported to several food pantries within Tarrant County, said Beard.

“The pantry shelves have all been emptying quite rapidly, due to the growing needs within our community,” he said. “It was amazing to see the long lines of cars at Catholic Charities Fort Worth campus; drivers waiting to drop off their donations to help restock those shelves and to help their fellow community members in need.”

Case management by telephone

While walk-in appointments are no longer available at CCFW’s Fort Worth, Colleyville, and Arlington offices, “Our call centers are up and running,” affirmed CCFW’s Director of Parish Relations Marc Dubal. “Our staff members are working safely from home, helping callers to access emergency rental and utilities assistance.”

CCFW staff member Holly Lane of the Northeast Campus in Colleyville continues to answer incoming calls from community members in need.CCFW staff member Holly Lane of the Northeast Campus in Colleyville continues to answer incoming calls from community members in need.

CCFW staff member Holly Lane of the Northeast Campus in Colleyville continues to answer incoming calls from community members in need. Due to the COVID-19 virus, CCFW has converted from in-person meetings to telephone conference meetings in order to protect clients, staff, and volunteers. (Photo courtesy of CCFW)

Although staff members are unable to sit with clients as usual to assist them in filling out the necessary documentation, CCFW team members are tenacious in finding ways for those with limited smartphone, fax, or scanning access to be able to submit the required paperwork.

“Our staff has been incredible,” said Dubal. “Every single one of our team members have such a huge servant’s heart. They are working hard to answer every call with compassion and kindness during this hard time. The needs are so great, and we are working hard to continue to meet those needs.”

CCFW’s large-scale response to COVID-19

CEO Grace admitted that the challenges currently facing the 110-year-old agency appear daunting.

“Through our Padua Pilot program, we are currently working intensively with 1,200 individuals and families to help them on their journey out of poverty, and that does not include those served through our transportation, immigration, and emergency assistance programs,” he noted. “Due to the increased needs within our communities, however, our outreach will continue to expand dramatically.”

CCFW is currently poised to serve more than 7,000 clients in the coming months through emergency assistance, referrals to community partners, short-term case management, assistance in accessing government benefits, and more, said Grace.

“CCFW staff will depend upon donor support in order to effectively leverage government relief funding, grants from foundations, and gifts from corporations,” he added.

The need for monetary donations has never been more critical, said Grace. “We cannot provide increased assistance without the resources to do so. Even though we are a large organization, we will have to say ‘no’ to people who call in for help unless we can obtain more funding.”

 

Donations to the agency’s COVID-19 emergency fund may be made online at catholiccharitiesfortworth.org/donate/The agency needs online tutors for CCFW clients currently enrolled in the Stay the Course college program, and volunteers are also needed to assist with agency call centers.

To request assistance from Catholic Charities Fort Worth, call 817-534-0814. For more information, visit catholiccharitiesfortworth.org

 

lady in mask unloads groceries from care

FORT WORTH — Even as Catholic Charities Fort Worth faces an unprecedented level of need, the increased opportunities to be of service provide a sense of sustained motivation and determination, said the nonprofit’s CEO, Michael Grace.

Published (until 4/13/2035)
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