Catholic Charities appeals to public for funds because it serves everyone
Stories of the miracles that transform people's lives, because of the generosity of the community bring tears to Susan Foster-Dow, vice president of mission and strategy with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.
The goal in raising funds for Catholic Charities' Annual Collection is to share those stories.
"We appeal for donations from the general public to support the work of Catholic Charities' staff and to serve clients based on "need not creed," she said in a recent interview. "About 90 percent of clients and staff are not Catholic."
The Collection, which is gathered from Nov. 15 into January, will fund Catholic Charities programs for all of 2019—from crisis response and emergency services through promoting stability through housing, food and care for seniors, to programs that advocate for people to improve their lives.
"The portal to stable housing for many who are experiencing homelessness is our shelter system with the House of Charity, Rising Strong and St. Margaret's Shelter," Susan said, adding that Catholic Charities also provides disaster response and emergency services.
"Rising Strong provides up to 18 months of shelter and programming for families who appear in court because of substance use or disorders impeding parenting. Using wrap-around services, we help families stay together and heal through counseling, job training, education, child care and health treatment for substance abuse and other disorders," she said.
Catholic Housing Communities provides apartments for low-income seniors, people living with disabilities, farmworkers and chronically homeless individuals and families in Eastern Washington.
Through funds from tax credits, Catholic Charities has built Father Bach Haven, Buder Haven, Donna Hansen Haven, Sisters Haven in Spokane; Pope Francis Haven in Spokane Valley; St. Michael the Archangel Haven (for veterans and families) in Walla Walla; Desert Haven and Guadelupe Haven in Othello, and Tepyac Haven and Bishop Topel Haven in Pasco.
The Catholic Charities Collection provides funding for the social services for housing residents, as well as the dozen other programs of Catholic Charities throughout the region.
In addition to Spokane, Catholic Charities provides services in Walla Walla, Pasco and the many smaller communities in the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.
That includes Volunteer Chore Services, counseling, immigration and legal services, CAPA/PREPARES and parish social ministry.
Susan said that CAPA (Childbirth and Parenting Assistance) and PREPARES (Pregnancy Parenting Resources) serve women and children from pregnancy through a child's fifth birthday, as a pro-life approach designed to help end the cycle of intergenerational poverty. CAPA serves people in Spokane and PREPARES serves people through more than two-thirds of parishes in the diocese.
"What we do is tangible," said Susan, noting that the community can see how the support of people makes miracles happen inside the "haven" housing units, inside shelters and in their lives.
"We are focusing on and celebrating the miracles that happen as we support people," she said. "All day, every day, people come by and drop off diapers for CAPA, books or dishes for families in housing, and checks from a book club or church group. The same day, those donations may go back out to people in need."
Someone who walks in and needs a jacket, umbrella, or help with a utility bill or plane ticket to a relative's funeral can receive that help through the parish social ministry office.
While some organizations have stopped doing direct service for a lack of funds, Susan said that Catholic Charities is able to leverage monetary and in-kind donations to do them.
"We can't do that without the support of the community," Susan said.
"We help to give people a home, because without a home address and place to feel safe, people find it hard to access and benefit from other services," she said.
"People in incredible suffering often do not know where to turn. A woman experiencing domestic violence may come with her children seeking a safe place to stay," she said.
For 2018, the Collection raised $1.3 million.
"We are committed to our mission of offering dignity to every person as part of our Catholic social teaching, so we can provide assistance on a wet spring day or dry summer day," she said.
Susan's family lived in small towns in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming before they settled in Spokane so their children—four daughters—could have a Catholic education. She first became involved with Catholic Charities while attending Gonzaga Prep, volunteering to help people by giving her time and energy as her parents encouraged her to do.
At Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., she studied foreign service and diplomacy, specializing in China. After a graduate fellowship in Taiwan, she finished a master's degree at Gonzaga University.
"I believed working on a global diplomatic level was important, and it is, but I am called now to work in my own backyard to improve my community," Susan said of her involvement with Catholic Charities.
When she returned to Spokane, she immediately heard Donna Hanson, who was then the executive director of Catholic Charities, speak at Assumption Parish to raise funds for the Catholic Charities Collection.
"Donna enthusiastically welcomed me, and I began volunteering with projects as a way to get involved," Susan said.
While her parents are still at Assumption Parish, Susan has attended St. Aloysius Parish since 2000.
She has continued her involvement with Catholic Charities for more than two decades and has worked there for the past three years.
While she is Catholic and sees her work as an outgrowth of her faith, she said: "I take pride in the fact that Catholic Charities does not push any version of faith or religion on people in need.
"Rather its focus is to provide help as people seek to improve their lives," Susan said.
Catholic Charities reaches out to foster dignity and to break the cycle of poverty in the community today and in the future.
For information, call 358-4250 or email development@ccspokane, or visit cceasternwa.org.
Catholic Charities clarifies changes at House of Charity
In addition to discussing the Catholic Charities Collection, Susan offered some clarification about recent changes at the House of Charity.
"It did not close, but the funding from the City of Spokane for 24/7 operations stopped after 20 months. Sometimes in the winter during that period, 400 people slept on beds and on the floor," she said.
"It was unsustainable for us to do this in a safe and healthy way," she said. "Now House of Charity is open seven days a week, and only closed during the day to clean. More people are on the street as a result. We now host 125 men and about 50 women in the emergency sleeping shelter, providing meals, case management and support services."
Meanwhile, the city is looking at opening shelters in more locations, rather than concentrating services in just one area of the community, Susan added.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2018