Dear Friends and Family of Catholic Charities:

Neighbors Helping Neighbors!

 

I want to take this opportunity to update you on what Catholic Charities has been doing since early March when the coronavirus pandemic started here. I remember sitting in our March 12, 2020 Board meeting, going about our usual business, days before our world was forever changed. Bishop McElroy said at the meeting: “Vino, did you know that 100 years ago Catholic Charities was created as a result of the Spanish Flu and we were called upon to take care of all the orphaned children across the West Coast. It is now 100 years later, and we are looking at a global pandemic that will forever change us again in how we assist those who are in desperate need of our assistance. I strongly believe that The Holy Spirit is calling us to act just like how we did 100 years ago.” I still get goosebumps every time I repeat that story. 

Thursday, March 19th, my cell phone was buzzing as employees were checking if they should come to work with the Governor’s stay at home executive order. Our team met to debrief; I spoke with Catholic Charities California who has a direct line to Governor’s Office, and we were deemed an “essential organization”.

I brought the team together and we discussed that this was our time to live our mission, do our best and help as many people as we can. Our shelters would stay open and we would start an Emergency Food Distribution Network because access to food was quickly going to become an issue.

 

 

Within a week, our team had developed the Emergency Food Distribution Network and by partnering with the Diocese, 21 parishes signed on to support their communities.

 

This program was guided by our mission Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry, and you gave me food.”

 

In the last 14 weeks, 475,941 pounds of food has been distributed through these sites, transforming into 396,618 meals to the most vulnerable in San Diego and Imperial County.

We have also partnered with local food banks as well as rescuing food to help supplement the food we are giving away. Our model is simple yet solid, everyone who signs up actually talks to a coordinator who confirms the date and time for their drive-thru food pick up or home-delivery; and, we are able to guarantee that they are going to receive food that week. Starting a new program with limited staff to respond to this very critical community need, the weight of this program has fallen on our amazing volunteers. Over 827 volunteers have donated 11,519 hours to help run this program and get essential food to those families that need help. Unfortunately, the reality of the economy shutting down for these past months will affect the most vulnerable populations for more than 18-24 months to come.

The Emergency Food Distribution Network will hopefully be able to run as long as people are hungry and in need of food. Our original plan to have the program for a few months has changed based on the growing need for food, and another shut down to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Catholic Charities also has 4 shelters that remain open and allowing the homeless to shelter in place with us, embodying the message of Matthew 25:35 “I was a stranger and you invited me in”. La Posada, our 100-bed men’s shelter in Carlsbad, and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Imperial County, which is also for men and has 50 beds, had to hire more staff to keep the shelters open all day providing three-meals a day. The men were usually out during the day working, looking for work, and/or working on personal matters. Rachel’s Women’s Day Center and Night Shelter have also been open and working daily to support the clients that depend on us. House of Hope in Imperial County is welcoming new families because the reality of sheltering in place is not always safe. Since the shutdown, all our shelters have been working with the clients to keep everyone fed, sheltered and safe. Donations of cleaning supplies and masks have helped us accomplish this. Seamstress have donated over 500 masks for our men, women, and children so they can have more than one mask to wear.

COVID-19 has taught us all a lot of lessons. It has brought out the best in our communities, neighbors helping neighbors, humanity at its best. It has been an honor leading our team of staff and volunteers through this unprecedented time. Catholic Charities will continue to live its mission with your help. I always talk about the 3 Ts- Time, Talent and Treasure, and you have helped us in all these areas. Volunteers are the backbone of our new programs, team members are working collaboratively solving the daily trials and tribulations as we navigate through this pandemic. You, who are our community and lifeline, have been sup- portive by sharing with us your treasures, and making sure that we can continue with our mission especially feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. As we, together navigate through this ongoing pandemic, I will continue to work with our Catholic Charities’ team of staff and volunteers to provide the essential ser- vices, to families and individuals who desperately need assistance and keep our community feeling strong, loved and hopeful. With all the uncertainties of the future, we can guarantee that with your support, Catholic Charities will be here to help and accompany those in need to weather the storm.

I pray that our good Lord blesses and protects you, your loved ones, our country, and our world.

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