Dear Friends and Family of Catholic Charities:
As we embrace each other in this summer of reemergence, the emotions are raw and overwhelming. The immense joy, relief, and happiness we now feel from a simple embrace gives us pause to reflect. While we are thankful for technology and the ability to see loved ones on a screen, standing six feet apart—and for so many, a state, country, or ocean away—created a barrier to the physical presence and connection that we now realize is so important and vital to our emotional wellbeing. We all lived in fear and suffered out of love, especially when it came to protecting our senior and elderly family members who were and still are most vulnerable to the virus. Meanwhile, they were hurting and longing to reunite with us. That is what makes that first step off the plane, or that first knock on the door—followed by that first embrace—so powerful.
For seniors, the pandemic brought deep despair and isolation. One study found that one in four adults ages 65 and older reported anxiety or depression. In that same study, nearly half of adults ages 65 and older said the worry and stress harmed their mental health. This amid the reality of the virus itself. Adults ages 65 and older account for 16% of the U.S. population, yet 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the country. I was brought to tears when I spoke with a woman named Billie in Imperial County. Billie is an example of a quiet crisis in America that was growing before COVID and has since accelerated during the pandemic: middle-class hunger. When Billie receives Catholic Charities’ food deliveries to her home, she eats. In the meantime, she waits. She is one of many in Imperial County who are hanging on by a thread. Before Billie was referred to us, she had once gone five days without food, finally turning to the only food on hand: cat food. She foresees the looming possibility that she could one day lose her home. However, her spirit and outlook on life is positive and contagious as she works to live her best life. Click here to hear what Billie has to say.
Then there is Rosa, also in Imperial County. She came to our women’s shelter, House of Hope, in unbearable physical pain and was later diagnosed with cervical cancer. The day before her surgery, Rosa pulled a friend and fellow participant at House of Hope to the side. “If I don’t come back, you can have my clothes,” Rosa told the woman. “They’re clean and we both wear the same size.” During the pandemic Rosa defeated cancer while going through treatment and staying at House of Hope. Click here to hear what Rosa has to say. Neither Billie nor Rosa have family members who were able to care for them. Even if they had, they wouldn’t have been able to safely visit and assist in person. I hope you will take time to read both Billie’s and Rosa’s stories on our website. Melanie, a participant at Catholic Charities’ Rachel’s Women’s Center in downtown San Diego has lived an unbelievably hard life. A drug dealer killed her son. Her husband died from a brain aneurysm—Melanie was tasked with the excruciating decision to take him off life support. She has experienced loss, rape, drugs, and abuse. Rachel’s helped her stay clean, safe, and
soon she will move into permanent housing. Last March, Melanie was isolated for a month with COVID-19 symptoms but, there were no available tests. She had two scares with seasonal allergies and the third time she did end up contracting the virus but endured those 2 weeks with mild symptoms. She is thankful that she had a safe place to stay during the pandemic; off the streets and away from the demons that lived there freely during the world shut down. Click here to hear what Melanie has to say.
Lan, a 91-year-old woman who lives in senior residential housing, said she was immensely fearful of COVID because she has breast cancer. But moreover, she felt deeply saddened that she wasn’t able to see and celebrate with her children during the holidays. The special sleepovers only a grandmother could hold were canceled along with the hugs and personal interactions.
Stories like these are countless. We all experienced loss over the last 17 months, loss of touch, loss of friendly in person conversations, loss of celebrations and for some loss of family members that we could not grieve properly with a goodbye. That is why Catholic Charities continues to provide food, shelter, and services for these seniors and so many others—just like we have been for over a century. Catholic Charities San Diego needs your local support now to sustain and expand these programs, which were essential long before the world labeled them as such and will continue to be crucial in our communities going forward. As we begin our “new” normal lives we hope that our dedication to continue to serve the most vulnerable in our communities is supported by our neighbors and friends.
I pray that our good Lord blesses and protects you, your loved ones, our country, and our world.
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