Nashville Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

As proud members of Nashville Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Catholic Charities plays a key role in disaster preparedness in the area. We were excited to be a site for August’s month city-wide drill that will ensure that for future needs, volunteers can be mobilized in a central location before deployment where they are most needed. Hands On Nashville, led this portion of the training and practice exercise for Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Catholic Charities is honored to serve our neighbors who are displaced by disasters. Being ready on a moment’s notice is one of our superpowers.


News from Catholic Charities – March 2022

From Executive Director Judy K. Orr

Catholic Charities resettling 330 Afghans to Middle Tennessee

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, has welcomed 330 Afghan refugees who were displaced by the largest evacuation in 50 years of people from their home country to the U.S. Our commitment to this segment of the 125,000 evacuees is now in its second phase.

All individuals and families are in safe housing, meeting frequently with the resettlement team, and continuing along the journey to a new life. It will be a years-long process for these New Americans to fully acclimate into their Tennessee home. Thank you to everyone who has supported Catholic Charities during these early stages of helping these new neighbors.

Volunteer to be a Family Mentor

We have numerous opportunities for anyone who wants to volunteer as a Family Mentor. Family Mentors supplement the services of our professional team by helping with shopping, groceries, driving the families to appointments, helping them learn conversational English (through everyday interactions), providing support in their home, offering help with basic banking and/or budgeting functions, and much more.

Our team has created this chart showing the complementary services that Family Mentors provide. We provide training and ongoing support for volunteers who take on this important role.

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete the volunteer application on our website. Our volunteer team will review your application and be in touch to discuss next steps.

Important first steps toward citizenship

Beyond the acclimation process, the next big step for everyone is pursuing citizenship, which involves important legal filings for each individual and family. Catholic Charities is working closely with the Welcoming Nashville Fund created by the United Way of Greater Nashville and the Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) to ensure access to legal services.

The outpouring of support from the Middle Tennessee community has been inspiring. Those donations are critical. Catholic Charities does not receive advance funding for this work. Instead a resettlement agency like ours must provide and pay for all goods and services up front. Only then can the agency apply to the federal government for reimbursement. This is why your continued support is so important. It also fills in the gaps in what the federal money permits us to purchase.

The resettlement process also takes time. We know from decades of helping refugees that the average time to achieve self-reliance is six months. But the need for occasional or ongoing support can last for more than a year.

Regardless of the circumstances, Catholic Charities will walk alongside our new neighbors as long as we are needed.

We have a special Afghan Resettlement page on our website where you can learn more about our work and stay up to date with any changes.


Volunteers help make great first impression

First impressions are important for anyone asking Catholic Charities for help. That important duty is now being job-shared by three fantastic, compassionate volunteers, Mary Pollman, Dave Lybarger, and Leslie Young.

All recent retirees, they work the Catholic Charities’ front desk, greeting people who come to the Catholic Pastoral Center and answering phone calls to our main phone number.

Together, they triage requests for assistance, listening to clients’ needs, collecting important information, and, ultimately, referring them to the right department.

Pollman said she was looking for a volunteer opportunity to fill her free time. She asked Father John Hammond at St. Patrick Catholic Church, and he recommended Catholic Charities. Lybarger, who is an ordained Catholic deacon, was looking for a similar way to help people in need.

Young is a recent transplant to Nashville. She heard about Catholic Charities at the United Methodist Church she attends, where she is a member of that church’s Immigration Task Force. She holds a Master’s in social work but did not work in the field during her career. She now can put that training to good use.

Pollman said her biggest discovery about Catholic Charities was the scope of the agency’s work. She noted the gratification of working with refugees and immigrants at this critical time.

Finding and vetting qualified volunteers has been a Catholic Charities priority for the last year. Volunteers have a keen desire to serve their neighbors and often complement the services provided by the professionals on staff.

We are honored that Pollman, Lybarger, Young and many others give of their time helping their neighbors.


Tickets on sale for El Festival de Esperanza

I am over-the-moon excited to announce El Festival de Esperanza – Celebrating Pathways to PossibilitiesIt will take place April 27 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Saint Elle in Nashville. The event is Catholic Charities’ largest annual fundraiser and will feature authentic Cuban food, drinks, joyous music, and dancing. The name El Festival de Esperanza means “Festival of Hope.”

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, was founded 60 years ago to resettle 43 Cuban children fleeing for safety from their homeland as political tensions rose to dangerous levels in 1962. We have reconnected with several of the now-grown children and the families that hosted them, and they will be among the guests at our Cuban-themed festival. We hope others will also come forward. Please email Besty Everett at if you are connected to any of these families.

Catholic Charities has grown from that initial program to an organization serving 25,000 people annually with a range of social services from emergency assistance to job training to counseling. El Festival will pay tribute to many of our “alumni” who were treated to our special brand of “love, hope, and healing.”

Tickets for El Festival de Esperanza are now on sale. We will share many more details in the coming days and weeks.


Update on Bombing Survivor Support

Catholic Charities has provided more than $2 million in support and counseling to survivors of the 2020 Christmas Day bombing. Here are a few highlights:

  • Helped 229 households (comprising nearly 1,000 people)
  • $1.4 million for rental and mortgage assistance
  • $154,000 for utility assistance
  • Provided counseling to 127 individuals

We know that many survivors are still grappling with the aftermath, even after the one-year anniversary has come and gone. Assistance continues to be available to workers who lost wages, residents who lost their homes, and business owners impacted by the bombing. Apply for assistance at

Catholic Charities knows from experience that the effects of trauma can last for years. We are committed to helping all survivors fully recover.

May love, hope, and healing be yours as we enter the season of Lent and prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.


Judy K. Orr
Executive Director
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville


Catholic Charities Update – November 2021

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

The Latest on Afghan Refugee Assistance

We so appreciate everyone who has reached out to help us welcome Afghans who have come to Nashville to start new lives. Our proud tradition of working with New Americans began in 1962.

So far, 85 of the 300 people assigned to our agency have arrived. Our team is working around the clock to make our new neighbors feel at home.

When these individuals and families arrive, they need life’s necessities, such as:

  • Housing and help with rent and utilities
  • Groceries and meals
  • Clothing, diapers, and personal hygiene items
  • Physical and mental healthcare
  • Assistance with legal fees to apply for asylum
  • Help with transportation

Thank you to all who have made financial gifts in support of these needs.

Catholic Charities is blessed to have some of Nashville’s top experts in resettlement and case management. They work with individuals and families to assess needs and identify the best way Catholic Charities can provide support.

Read the just-published Tennessee Register story about Catholic Charities case managers and the families they serve in the resettlement process.

Right now, we have three direct ways you can give to our resettlement efforts:

You can also support our work by purchasing items from the Amazon Wish List created by our resettlement team.


Catholic Charities Opens Offices in Six Counties – More to Come in 2022

Margie Stevenson, program coordinator for the new Catholic Charities family resource center in Coffee County, is joined by other Catholic Charities staff, the Tullahoma Chamber of Commerce, and community members for a ribbon-cutting ceremony October 20. Photo by Katie Peterson, Tennessee Register.

In summer 2020, we announced plans to expand Catholic Charities by opening new family resource centers in ten Middle Tennessee counties, all part of the Diocese of Nashville. Tennessee Serves Neighbors, as we call it, will be one of the largest programs of Catholic Charities when fully built out.

I am happy to report that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, six centers are now open with full-time staff members ready to help individuals and families with a wide range of social services. All staff live in the communities they serve so they have a finger on the pulse of the community, and they can tailor services to the local needs.

The primary goal of a family resource center is to provide a range of services at a single location, so that our neighbors don’t have to visit multiple sites or travel to Nashville to get assistance. Catholic Charities has nearly two decades’ experience operating similar centers in North Nashville and South Nashville.

We are grateful to the State of Tennessee for providing the base funding to make this important expansion possible, and we are delighted by how much the local communities have embraced Tennessee Serves Neighbors.

Four more family resource centers are on the drawing board.


Catholic Charities Wins Grant for Kid’s Entrepreneurial Club

I am pleased to share that Catholic Charities has won a grant from the United Way of Greater Nashville to continue our Kid’s Entrepreneurial Club. Nicole Bailey, supervisor of community outreach for the Family Empowerment Program, designed and piloted the program at Catholic Charities at C. E. McGruder, a family resource center in North Nashville.

Designed for children ages 5-12, the curriculum teaches life skills through the lens of Biblical principles to guide participants in developing character traits of self-love, service to others, advocacy, and moral responsibility. The pilot involved participants of Preston Taylor Ministries’ summer camp.

During the seven-week program, instructors lead children through age-appropriate discussions and tasks that help them answer the following questions:

  • What am I good at? (self-worth and identification)
  • What are the needs around me? (community)
  • What can I do with what I have? (entrepreneurship, problem-solving, social responsibility)
  • What are my beliefs? (moral and spiritual responsibility, social responsibility)
  • Who can I bring on board? (teamwork, community, compromise)
  • How can I spread the word? (social media and social media responsibility, presentation, advocacy)


Reflection Ceremony to be Held Dec. 16

Catholic Charities is proud to have been the lead agency providing much-needed assistance to those who lost jobs, residences, and businesses due to the Christmas Day bombing last year. Members of our team gave up most of their holiday break to begin taking applications for assistance and counseling survivors. We joined a city-wide taskforce three days after the bombing, and we launched a website by New Year’s Eve.

As a member of the community’s long-term recovery group for the disaster, we will participate in the Reflection Ceremony on Dec. 16, 6-7 p.m., on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge in Downtown Nashville.

In all, Catholic Charities has helped 227 families (nearly 1,000 individuals total), and we continue working with another 24 families. We were honored to recently receive an award for this work from the Center for Nonprofit Management’s Salute to Excellence program.

Our hope is that the Reflection Ceremony will help survivors continue their healing and recovery, and will reassure them that we continue to walk alongside them for however long they need us. In the rush of holiday festivities, it is easy to forget those who are struggling. Holidays and anniversaries can be particularly difficult. But when the disaster occurred on a holiday, it is doubly painful.

Heather Baker, mother of four, lost her job on Christmas Day due to the bombing. Watch her story of recovery, which has been aided by Catholic Charities.

Executive Team Retreat Focuses on Strategic Goals and Next Steps

A group of Catholic Charities leaders brought energy and enthusiasm to a first-ever leadership retreat recently. We discussed priorities for the next 12 months and, most importantly, how to better collaborate to deliver vital services to our neighbors.

We were fortunate to have The Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, Bishop of Nashville,  start our day in prayer. Bishop Spalding shared insights about the scriptural imperatives to help others. Bishop also provided moving reflections on his own experience as a pastor over the years, helping his flock cope with loss and disappointment. He noted the importance of just being present for those who are suffering—a great lesson for us all.


May love, hope, and healing be yours, as we enter the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Judy K. Orr
Executive Director
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville

How to help with Waverly floods

Catholic Charities has received a number of calls and emails from people asking how they can assist our Waverly and Humphreys County neighbors impacted by this weekend’s flooding.

We recommend that you direct any donations to the Community Resource Center (CRC). The CRC team is is making multiple trips a day to Waverly with food and essential supplies for the flood victims.

You can make a financial donation on the CRC website at

If you are interested in donating supplies, here is CRC’s list of most needed emergency supplies and CRC drop off locations.

Catholic Charities is proud to support the CRC and other organizations on the front lines in Humphreys County. When called, we will be there to provide long-term recovery services and support that are vital for a full recovery. Please look for updates about our work and how you can help.

Pathways to Recovery – Reflections from Catholic Charities on the March 2020 Tornadoes

Catholic Charities is proud of our work over the last 12 months helping Nashvillians recover from the devastating tornadoes that tore through North Nashville, East Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Hermitage, and Donelson in 2020.

We are pleased to share some stories from staff who worked on many aspects of the recovery – from food assistance to helping residents rebuild their home to providing trauma counseling – as they reflected on what happened in the immediate aftermath and the work that continues to this day.

The videos below are from:

  • Wendy Overlock, Coordinator of the Loaves and Fishes community meals program
  • LaShunda White, North Nashville Outreach Case Manager
  • Kamrie Reed, LCSW, who provides trauma counseling


Please consider supporting future disaster recovery

Catholic Charities must be prepared to help our neighbors when the next disaster happens. Please consider donating to help with future disaster recovery efforts.


Catholic Charities Receives $2 Million to Help Those Impacted by the Explosion

NASHVILLE, TENN. – Jan. 1, 2021 – Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, has received a $2 million grant from the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to assist individuals, families, and business owners directly impacted by the bombing that occurred the morning of Dec. 25 in Nashville. The program is part of the Nashville Strong initiative involving a number of government and non-profit organizations in response and recovery efforts.

“We want to thank the FBI for making the VOCA funds available so quickly,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy K. Orr. “We will begin processing applications Monday morning, so we distribute the available funding as quickly as possible.”

To qualify, applicants must have worked or resided in the impacted area in Downtown Nashville, which is defined as being bound by James Robertson Parkway, 4th Avenue North, Broadway, and the Cumberland River.
The types of assistance available to individuals and families include: ·
  • Rental payment assistance for employees who lost wages or residents displaced from a primary residence·
  • Utility payment assistance for employees and residents· Food assistance in the form of staples and prepared meals·
  • Counseling to alleviate the trauma, anxiety, stress, and other emotional conditions·
  • Replacement of technology used for work or school
The application is available online at, a brand-new website created this week specifically for this purpose. Applicants will have to prove they lived or worked in the impacted area.
Catholic Charities expects to hire up to five people to manage applications, provide counseling, and help applicants navigate the many steps toward recovery.
Orr emphasized the importance of counseling, especially for a traumatic event like the explosion.
“We know from our work with the 2010 floods that the psychological impact will last years for some people,” Orr said. “Traumatic events can leave significant emotional scars if people don’t seek help.”
The Catholic Charities team includes counselors experienced at working with victims of crime.
Catholic Charities recently helped screen applicants and distribute more than $1.5 million from the Nashville Covid Response Fund as well as CARES Act funding from State of Tennessee and Metro Nashville to those impacted by the Covid pandemic. It was also instrumental in tornado recovery efforts for North Nashville.
About Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, was founded in 1962 as the social service arm of the Diocese of Nashville. The organization serves people of every religious, ethnic, cultural, and racial background in 38 Middle Tennessee counties that comprise the Diocese of Nashville. Assisting more than 12,000 people per year, Catholic Charities provides a range of services that help clients through crises and toward self-sufficiency. Services include emergency financial assistance, counseling, job training, housing stability, hunger relief, and more.

United Way Allocates Additional $1.17 Million Through COVID-19 Response Fund

NOTE: Catholic Charities is proud to partner with United Way of Greater Nashville and many other area nonprofits to assist with the distribution of COVID-19 Response Fund dollars to our neighbors in need.

United Way Allocates Additional $1.17 Million Through COVID-19 Response Fund: More Donations are Needed to Help Neighbors in Need

April 20, 2020, NASHVILLE, Tenn.-United Way of Greater Nashville announced today that the COVID-19 Response Fund allocated $1.17 million, its third round of funding, to 44 local nonprofit organizations that are helping inpiduals and families impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Fund has raised just over $3.9 million, thanks to generous gifts from local foundations, corporations and community members. $2 million-more than half-has already been distributed. Donations are decreasing, and so much more is needed to meet the growing needs of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help those who are struggling. Funded agencies have wait lists of 4,000 people looking for help paying their rent, buying groceries and finding childcare so they can continue to work.

“One client that called on us was a single mother with two children. She was employed by a house-cleaning business which temporarily closed and came to us needing assistance with rent and utlities,” said Judy Orr, executive director at Catholic Charities of Tennessee, one of the Fund’s receiving agencies.

“Another client is a chef at an area restaurant, who is the sole provider for his three young children. He does not expect to be called back before mid-to-late May and he called on Catholic Charities to help pay his mortgage and utilities.”

There are thousands of stories just like these-in our community alone.

“Even seasoned case managers at Catholic Charities have found the avalanche of demand for financial assistance to be unbelievably catastrophic. Many people have never had to use social services before,” Orr said. “Yet, it is healing for the case managers and those in dire need to have the resources-powered by the community’s spirit of generosity-of Nashville’s COVID-19 Response Fund.”

“Families who come to Conexión Américas face a particularly difficult circumstance-some not qualifying for federal economic relief despite having paid taxes,” said Juliana Ospina Cano, executive director at Conexión Américas, another Fund recipient. “As many seek to stay afloat with lost jobs and no source of income, direct economic assistance from the generous contributions to the COVID-19 Response Fund is no doubt bringing peace of mind to families. Our ability to distribute cash assistance gives people the agency to make their own decisions. To date, we have over 900 inpiduals on our waitlist, the majority being head of households between the ages of 25 and 45 who worked full-tume and lost their jobs in March. Filing for unemployment, negotiating with landlords, going to the doctor, grocery store, home- schooling in English, it is all hard and overwhelming. I am proud of our organization, of knowing our support is not only alleviating a very significant need but connecting them to other resources in the city.”

Agencies that received the funding are providing basic essentials, childcare services, crisis support, domestic violence support, food security, healthcare, immigration services, mental health support, personal protective equipment, rent/mortgage assistance and utility assistance to those in need-but they can only serve their neighborhoods in these areas if they continue to receive the funding to do so.

“As long as we can continue to raise more funds, United Way will continue to serve the community and distribute funding to the agencies on the ground helping our neighbors in need,” says Brian Hassett, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Nashville. “Now more than ever, we need those who have the ability to help others to step up and give whatever they can.”

To make a donation, visit or text NashvilleUnited to 41444.

As funds are distributed, United Way will publish the receiving agencies, along with the help they can provide and contact information, at 100 percent of the Fund goes to nonprofits to help inpiduals impacted by COVID-19 and agencies that need organizational support.

Organizations that received the Fund’s third round of grants include:

1. AGAPE Nashville
2. Aphesis House
3. Bethlehem Centers of Nashville
4. Book’em
5. Branches Counseling Center
6. Catholic Charities of Tennessee
7. Community Care Fellowship
8. Community Housing Partnership of Williamson County
9. Conexión Américas
10. Gideon’s Army Grassroots Army for Children
11. Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee
12. Greater Faith Community Action Corporation
13. Healing Housing, Inc.
14. High Hopes Development Center
15. Inspiritu
16. Martha O’Bryan Center
17. Nashville General Hospital
18. Nashville General Hospital Foundation
19. Nashville Launch Pad
20. NeedLink Nashville
21. New Restoration Community Church
22. Open Table Nashville
24. Project Return
25. RooYop Foundation
26. Servant Group International
27. Sexual Assault Center
28. Shower The People
29. Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee
30. Tennessee Justice Center
31. The Branch of Nashville
32. The Bridge Ministry, Inc
33. The HELP Center
34. The Lijle Pantry that Could
35. The Next Door
36. The Path Project, Inc.
37. The Salvation Army-Nashville Area
38. The Well Outreach
39. TNKids Nutrition, Inc.
40. United Ministries Food Bank of Robertson County
41. Urban League
42. Walk Bike Nashville
43. Welcome Home Ministries
44. Youth Encouragement Services, Inc

Inpiduals and families looking for help can visit to find information on resources available and services provided by agencies that have received grants from the


About the COVID-19 Response Fund:

The COVID-19 Response Fund is housed at United Way of Greater Nashville, in partnership with Mayor John Cooper’s office and local corporate and philanthropic partners. The Fund provides flexible resources to organizations working with inpiduals and communities who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the outbreak. The Fund is designed to complement the work of public health officials and expand local capacity to address all aspects of the outbreak as efficiently as possible. United Way administers grants in partnership with the Response Commijee and Fund partners. In order to move resources quickly and not further burden organizations on the frontlines of the pandemic, we are not hosting a formal applicatuon process at this time. Funds will be released on a rolling basis as fundraising continues throughout the outbreak and recovery phases of the crisis, making it possible to move resources quickly and adapt to evolving needs in subsequent funding phases. To learn more, visit

About United Way of Greater Nashville
At United Way, we unite the community and mobilize resources so that every child, inpidual and family thrives. Together, we are working to create a community where every child receives a quality educa@on, no one lives in poverty or poor health, and the most basic needs of our families are met. We are uniquely positioned to the lead this fight by bringing inpiduals, businesses, nonprofits and government to the table to have the tough conversations, mobilize the resources and make the smart investments that will create lasting solutions for our region’s most pressing issues. For more information, visit and follow us on social media @UWNashville.

Disaster Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr

March 2020 was an extraordinary month. Days felt like weeks, and weeks felt like months as the Catholic Charities team provided needed assistance to those impacted by the tornadoes and COVID-19.

In nearly 60 years, Diocese of Nashville’s Catholic Charities has never faced the challenges of two crises of this type at the same time. We are still operating despite these challenges. We are essential to those who need help. And, demand for our services has never been greater.

I am so grateful to our team for finding new and better ways to help clients as we adjust to the current realities. Though emotionally taxed, the team remains nimble, focused, and as caring as ever.

Below are updates about the great work they are doing to help people in our communities.


Catholic Charities is one of six organizations chosen to provide financial assistance as part of the COVID-19 Response Fund managed by the United Way of Greater Nashville.

We are paying out on average $1,000 to individuals who lost wages because of COVID-19. We reassigned staff to work through the applications so that the payments can get to those in need as quickly as possible.

Catholic Charities received an initial pool of $50,000 to distribute, and additional gifts are anticipated. Twelve staff members are responsible for gathering information and processing applications, while another three members answer calls and perform initial screenings. If you know someone who needs assistance, please have them go online to our online application or call 615-352-3087.

Additional COVID-19 Updates:

• The Sewing Training Academy (STA), which is based at the McGruder Family Resource Center, created mask kits for home sewers. Using industrial cutting equipment, they cut 1,000 yards of Sontara, a medical-grade fabric that was donated by Adelca Systems. More than 1,000 finished masks have already been distributed to local hospitals and healthcare facilities, including Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living facility, with another 2,000 in production.
• Loaves and Fishes is still operating, though all meals are take-out and volunteers are abiding by social-distancing guidelines. Food boxes are also being distributed at two locations to those affected by layoffs.
• Amanda Marshall, MSSW, one of our mental health counselors, has created some “Self-Regulating Strategies” to help you through these uncertain times. She discusses coping strategies for people who are feeling negative emotions and how to practice self-care.
• The “Pathways to Possibilities” fundraising event originally scheduled for April 21 will now be an online event the week of April 19. Look for more details on our Facebook page and on our website.
• Thank you to all of our staff, volunteers, and partners for truly making a difference.

Tornado Recovery

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has put most tornado recovery efforts on hold because of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.

Our team is providing case management by email and phone as well as counseling via online tele-health meetings. We are distributing donated material goods in a contact-less method with the help of volunteers from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, led by council president Joe Bibeau. More than a tractor trailer full of household and personal hygiene items were provided by Food for the Poor, Americares, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Second Harvest donated disaster food boxes for us to distribute.

Vickie York, whose experience with disaster recovery includes 9/11 in New York City and Nashville’s May 2010 floods, has joined Catholic Charities to head the recovery efforts and is chomping at the bit to get out into the community. Kamrie Reed, LMSW, is our new trauma counselor on the tornado recovery team. We will be ready to expand this work the minute health authorities deem it safe for us to do that once again.

Giving Thanks

There is still much to be thankful for in these crazy times. Catholic Charities is grateful to the many generous donors who have enabled us to do this important work, including:

• The Catholic Diocese of Memphis for sending $30,000 from a special collection for tornado relief
• Corner to Corner for $10,000 in gift cards to distribute to people impacted by the tornado in North Nashville
• Catholic Charities USA for two $10,000 grants – one for tornado relief and one for COVID-19 assistance
• Individuals who contributed to our own tornado relief fund. To date, we have raised more than $200,000 from people across the country and in our own back yard.

For all of these, we are truly grateful!

How You Can Help

Let friends and family know about the COVID-19 Response Fund if they have lost their job because of COVID-19. If Catholic Charities cannot help, we will do our best to direct them to an organization that can. The Response Fund is greatly in need of additional financial contributions and I strongly urge you to give to this fund to help your neighbors.

Catholic Charities continues to take donations for tornado relief and COVID-19 financial assistance. The rebuilding effort will be ongoing for many months if not years. If you can, please consider giving.

Lastly, please make time to check on an older adult neighbor who lives alone. Organizations that typically provide daily contact, such as Meals on Wheels, are having to adjust as well. This means that seniors living alone may only see someone once a week, at best. They need us more than ever.

And to all our neighbors, supporters, and those we serve, please extend charity to one another and keep the faith. Fear is a formidable opponent, but easily vanquished by hope. Please be assured that Catholic Charities will be there for you. Let us know how we can help.

An Easter Wish

As we approach Holy Week and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, my prayer for each of you is continued good health, community, and the peace of Christ. God bless you.

Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

IN HIS OWN WORDS: Thanks for the chance to talk!

The following message recently came to our Disaster Relief call center:

I am looking… Hmmm? What am I looking for… Honestly I’m not sure.

I lost my job a few weeks back from this coronavirus mess. I was planning on moving back at the 1st of March but everything got halted & changed so fast. I was staying in a hotel for a week thinking “April’s not that far I can manage till then, pick up extra shifts, stay here and move in to an opening after the first” but that changed with being laid off/let go.

I’ve been sleeping in my car for 10 days now. Less than 10 bucks to in my pocket. I’ve had a little help w/food from a sister out of town, but she and her husband are going through their own issues w/work loss. I know there are many folks struggling right now.

I’ve never been one to ask for help more give than take. I’ve filed for unemployment, but that’s weeks away from processing and receiving. Less than $200 per week but hey it’s something right so I’m blessed.

I could use help w/minimal stuff. Yes a place to live would be nice but honestly more concerned w/getting gas in my car to hopefully get to one of these jobs I’ve applied for in the last few days. Having a little money to go to the laundry mat, buy a toothbrush or Advil if I needed to. I’m not homeless or indigent even if my circumstance appears that way.

I could work for whatever you have to offer. If it’s washing windows, cleaning toilets, whatever. I just need help bridging the gap during this crazy mess. I’ve never not worked…had the same job for 6 years now. I’ve been looking, folks are not able to hire right now and those that can are slammed w/application requests. I’m not sitting around crying about it all.

God is not letting me suffer. I pray a little more these days but in a different way. More talking w/Christ than before. I’m in good spirits, healthy, not starving, staying positive despite the obstacles.

I know I’ve rambled here but I’ve not had normal contact for weeks and needed to just chat & open up even if it’s just w/my finger typing on a phone. I don’t know what if any help y’all can provide me and even if you have none I’ll be ok.

My thoughts and prayers are w/you at this moment that you and your family and co-workers are all safe and blessed. If nothing else you’ve given me a chance to open up let my mind and soul be emptied out a bit. For that alone I thank you.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee balances tornado recovery, virus response (Catholic News Service – Story by Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

As Catholic Charities of Tennessee executive director Judy Orr leads her agency’s response to the deadly March 3 tornado, every plan must be vetted to comply with the latest precautions against the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the chief concerns is how to provide counseling services to those who experienced the trauma of the tornado, followed by the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, when people are practicing social distancing and staying apart as much as possible.

“There might be someone whose house got destroyed by the tornado, then their restaurant closed (to follow CDC guidelines) and they can’t go to work, and you can’t even give them a hug,” Orr told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.

Her counseling staff is adapting the best they can to the circumstances. Many counselors will be moving to offering services over the phone or through online video chat. Those methods “are not fully embraced” by counselors, said Orr, a licensed master social worker, “but in this crisis we have to do it.”

Since the tornado, Catholic Charities has added two new staff members, disaster recovery manager Vickie York and trauma counselor Kamrie Reed.

York, who has responded to disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, will be looking at “the whole constellation of needs” that clients have right now, according to Orr, while Reed will be offering one-on-one remote counseling.

“I love meeting directly with people,” said York. “That’s where my heart is. This is a little overwhelming, but God willing, we’ll get through it.”

York and Reed will likely split their time between the Catholic Pastoral Center and the McGruder Family Resource Center in North Nashville, assessing needs and assisting clients, doing as much of the work over the phone and via videoconferencing as possible.

While still responding to the needs of those affected by the tornado, Catholic Charities also is gearing up to support clients, especially those in the service and hospitality industry, who have faced layoffs and economic hardship due to their workplaces shuttering to comply with COVID-19 precautions.

Catholic Charities is one of five local social service agencies that will receive an immediate grant of $25,000 from the city’s COVID-19 Response Fund, supported by the Frist Foundation and the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Corp. “We’re trying to determine a quick intake process at a distance to get people the money as soon as possible,” said Orr.

Melissa Smith, who also is a licensed master social worker and is coordinator of Catholic Charities’ school counseling program, said she and her fellow counselors are making contact with all their clients “to see how we can support them and offer resources while they’re at home.”

She set up a Facebook page where she and other counselors will post resources for social-emotional learning at home and offer a space for some digital socializing.

Smith encourages parents to make sure children still have some sense of routine “even though everything is out of the ordinary right now.”

Parents and children alike should reach out for support, she said. “Even though we’re physically isolated, we don’t have to be socially isolated.” Smith also plans to offer counseling sessions using video chats, but “if there’s a kid who absolutely needs in-person counseling, we can find someone to do that.”

In a message thanking Catholic Charities donors after the tornado, Orr wrote, “Counseling is available to any family regardless of financial situation. Our counselors are trained to assist families dealing with crisis, grief, depression, chemical dependency, and much more.”

As the Catholic Charities counseling staff ramps up and makes adjustments, the agency continues to meet the material needs of clients while maintaining social distancing.

Catholic Charities has received more than $200,000 in direct donations for tornado relief, including major donations from Catholic Charities USA, other organizations and individual donors. They expected to receive $10,000 in gift cards from Walmart soon, which they can disburse in $50 increments to clients who need help buying food and supplies.

A trailer full of goods was delivered to the Catholic Pastoral Center March 17, and Wendy Overlock, who oversees the Loaves and Fishes meal program and serves as Catholic Charities emergency assistance coordinator, is currently working with pastors of parishes near areas hard-hit by the tornado to make a distribution plan.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a national network of volunteers who assists people with immediate needs and responds to crisis situations, has set up a phone number specifically to help people in Middle Tennessee who were affected by the tornado.

The society had planned to host several in-person assessment days at parishes where volunteer counselors could meet with survivors to understand their needs and offer gift cards and hygiene kits, but those were canceled to comply with COVID-19 precautions. Now, they are doing everything over the phone.

“A lot of our volunteers are retirees and more concerned about exposure,” said Joe Bibeau, president of the society’s Nashville District Council.

Even though they may not be able to meet clients in person as they would like, they will continue to “identify people who need help and what they need” over the phone. They will then connect the person with Catholic Charities, who can offer the best resources and case management services if needed.

Reflecting on how volunteers came together in the immediate aftermath of the tornado, and how people continue to offer help, Orr wrote in a message to Catholic Charities supporters, “We have no doubt Nashville will recover from this natural disaster. I’m reminded every day that love, goodwill and kindness can heal those in need. Fortunately, Nashville has all three in abundance.”

Tornado Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr

Catholic Charities of Tennessee has received numerous offers of help ever since tornadoes devastated parts of Middle Tennessee on March 3. People want to know how they can donate, volunteer, and generally help us help our community recover from the weather disaster. Of course, we are now also working to help the increased number of people in need due to economic hardship brought on by coronavirus-related issues.

Thank you for your prayers of support, your volunteer spirit, and your generous donations. As of today, we have received more than $200,000 in donations. We are humbled that many donors are from out of state, and yet Tennesseans have, of course, been very generous, too. We greatly appreciate receiving all of these much-needed funds.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee will direct these donations toward emergency assistance and recovery efforts through our two main lines of service: case management and counseling.

Case management – a dedicated team is working directly with survivors to assist with urgent, immediate problems for clients, such as eviction prevention, temporary housing, household goods, food, even diapers for babies. (See chart below for more info.) Case managers may refer clients to additional Catholic Charities services, but they will also refer clients to other community/government agencies, as needed or when appropriate.

Counseling – our team of counseling professionals is currently focused on preventing long-term emotional problems that can be caused by traumatic events, such as the tornado or sudden, mass unemployment caused by the threat of coronavirus. Our experience helping survivors after the 2010 flood in Nashville taught us that it can take 18 months or longer for many people impacted by these disasters to recover emotionally. All Catholic Charities counselors are professionals licensed by the state and are experts at helping clients address issues of stress, anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, and much more.

The following chart summarizes the short- and long-term services Catholic Charities is currently or will soon be providing to help survivors recover. This is how your donations may be used:

In addition to our direct services, Catholic Charities is an active member of the area-wide Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) group, which is coordinating the recovery activities of many nonprofit organizations in Nashville, as well as the Management Agency Housing Taskforce. Catholic Charities either provides services directly, and/or refers people in need to other resources when specific situations require.

Locations for services

• McGruder Family Resource Center (North Nashville: 2013 25th Avenue North, Nashville, 37208)
• Catholic Pastoral Center (Donelson: 2806 McGavock Pike, Door #7, Nashville, 37214)
• Online counseling is available

Catholic Charities also hopes, from time to time, to staff a mobile unit and visit various neighborhood locations. More details will follow in the coming days as needs and locations become identified.

In Tennessee, unity in response to vast tornado devastation (Robert Alan Glover, National Catholic Reporter)

Wendy Apple, a volunteer at First Baptist Church in Putnam County, Tennessee, about 80 miles east of Nashville, described the damage from the March 3 tornado that swept through here, one of seven that swept the region.

“Destruction is so total and the debris so widespread that in many places you cannot even access where someone’s house stood,” she said.

As of March 8, the second Sunday of Lent, the official death toll through the entire region stood at 25.

Cookeville, home to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, suffered the majority of those fatalities, 18 in all. When NCR interviewed her March 6, Apple had been working at her church’s relief shelter almost nonstop since Tuesday morning.

Her regular church roles include teaching children the Bible and working as the Sunday School secretary. Now she has another job, but with a lot of help as well.

“Countless families and communities, literally thousands from the surrounding areas and states have sent items in, and our fire department has used its vehicles to transport these gifts to places where they can be distributed,” Apple said.

She noted that Tutco, a heating solutions manufacturer and one of Putnam County’s largest employers, was hard hit. The company is using its various resources – including transportation – to reach affected areas that other parties cannot.

Apple said the path of one tornado covered 60 miles in all. As reported by the Nashville Tennessean, another tornado hit Cookeville, a city of about 33,000 people, some 80 miles east of Nashville.

Apple’s family and home suffered no damage, but she told NCR that “it is impossible to sleep when you go home to change clothes and eat, because of all that has happened, but thankfully we have the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church here, which has been a virtual godsend.”

St. Thomas Aquinas Church has provided First Baptist Church and Cookeville residents with food, dry goods, and various infant and children’s needs.

In Nashville, Holy Rosary Catholic Church stands in the Donelson neighborhood, just two miles beyond the immortal Grand Ole Opry venue.

The parish, which has 650 registered families and a school with 328 students, “did not sustain any damage and everyone here came through all right,” Fr. Dan Steiner, pastor, told NCR.

A tornado struck downtown, moved from the West Side to the city’s North End, hitting heavily populated areas of Germantown, Donelson, and Hermitage.

Moving east, the storm struck Lebanon, the county seat of Wilson county, and Mt. Juliet, a suburb of Nashville.

Multiple churches of different faith denominations also suffered damage, as did dozens of houses – many totally destroyed – on the city’s north side.

“I woke up to the sound of sirens and an otherwise eerie silence, one that told me a tornado was coming, and afterwards the next day, we began coordinating our relief efforts by phone,” Steiner said, noting that volunteers have been working from early morning to 9 p.m., often replenishing resources at different sites as the supplies run out.

Steiner noted the importance of helping people during Lent.

“We’re all members in the body of Christ; this is people acting through caring,” he said.

Assumption Catholic Church in Nashville, the city’s second oldest Catholic Church, suffered heavy damage.

“It is the most seriously damaged church of them all, and will be unusable for a period of time,” said Rick Musacchio, director of communications for the Diocese of Nashville. Mass for the parish is being offered at the nearby Monroe Street United Methodist Church.

Mark Cassman, Assumption parishioner, told NCR “our family went to Mass last Sunday, and then woke up at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to sirens, and the knowledge that a tornado was coming.”

Cassman’s home was untouched – he lives outside of the tornado’s path – and he went to the church immediately to assess the damage.

“I found trees all over the schoolyard, and our roof had been lifted up where it meets the bricks in the walls,” he said.

Volunteers showed up at daylight and worked for six hours. Communication was limited to a Facebook post. Volunteers repeated their marathon efforts again over the next four days, but the widespread damage is still obvious.

“We have gutter and chimney damage; half of one wall is crumbled, and a piece of debris flew in through the solid brick of our sacristy wall, leaving an eight-inch wide hole,” Cassman said.

The churches are trying to address the spiritual damage as well as the physical.

“This Sunday our Mass attendance was less than half, despite our offering services in two places; we figure that a lot of people must have gone elsewhere,” Cassman said.

Fr. Bede Price, pastor, did his best to bolster spirits, Cassman said. “He reminded us that Mass has been celebrated on the battlefields, and in the Roman catacombs, but it has always been held.”

Long-term repairs will probably affect the church’s ability to hold its annual Oktoberfest this fall, the parish’s financial bedrock, and people are worried about the effect of the shuttering on regular offerings and tithes.

Judy Orr, executive director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville, told NCR that the recovery problem is “likely to be long-term” and that her organization’s job is just beginning.

“We are working with our affected neighbors to help them get their basic needs taken care off, which is our role at the outset [of every disaster],” Orr said. “We anticipate working with survivors for many months and years to come, through case management and counseling.”

Orr said that “the storm came as people slept around 1 a.m., and was very traumatic; some people had their homes falling on them in the dark, with only minutes of warning at best.”

“Many of the people in the storm’s path are long-time residents of historic neighborhoods close to downtown, and already burdened and challenged in many ways,” Orr noted.

Disaster Assistance Centers & FEMA Registration

Were you impacted by the Middle Tennessee tornado on March 3, 2020?

Come to a Disaster Assistance Center to access support from multiple agencies at once.
Hadley Park Community Center
Hermitage Community Center
East Park Community Center
Departments represented include:
Metro Codes, Metro Social Services,Humane Association, FEMA registration intake, Public Health, Red Cross, Financial
Empowerment Center, TN Dept of Labor, Metro Action Commission, TN Dept of Human Services

7 days a week : 9 AM t o 6 PM
For updates : www. n a s h v i l l e . g o v
Putnam County DRC
Hyder-Burks Agriculture Pavilion
2390 Gainesboro Grade
Cookeville, TN 38501
Sundays – Wednesdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursdays 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Fridays – Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m. until further notice
*Opened today, March 11, at 9 a.m.
Davidson County DRCs

*These centers will open Thursday, March 12 at 9 a.m.

East Park Community Center
600 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Hadley Park Community Center
1037 28th Ave. North
Nashville, TN 37208
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Hermitage Community Center
3720 James Kay Lane
Hermitage, TN 37076
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

FEMA & SBA Links

Homeowners, renters, and business owners in Davidson, Putnam, and Wilson Counties who suffered damage as a result of the March 3, 2020 tornado are urged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as they may be eligible for disaster assistance.

There are 3 ways to register:

Putnam County Disaster Recovery Center

Hyder-Burks Agriculture Pavilion (2390 Gainesboro Grade, Cookeville, TN 38501)
Sundays – Wednesdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursdays 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Fridays – Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m. until further notice

Davidson County Disaster Recovery Centers

(1) East Park Community Center (600 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN 37206)
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

(2) Hadley Park Community Center (1037 28th Ave. North, Nashville, TN 37208)
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

(3) Hermitage Community Center (3720 James Kay Lane, Hermitage, TN 37076)
Sundays-Saturdays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

[SPECIAL NOTE: The FEMA link also provides information on the Small Business Administration Business Recovery Center to provide information about disaster loans, answer questions, and assist businesses in completing the SBA application.]

Davidson County Business Recovery Center

Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church (2708 Jefferson Street, Nashville, TN 37208)
Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Closed Saturdays and Sundays

Tornado Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr

The Catholic Charities of Tennessee team continues to pray for and work for the continued healing of our community members affected by last week’s devastating tornado, especially those who lost loved ones. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to us asking about our wellbeing and offering ways to join us in helping our neighbors.

I want to share a few brief updates from Catholic Charities of Tennessee regarding how we are helping our communities heal.

Relief Center at McGruder Family Resource Center

Nashville has many wonderful organizations dedicated to crisis response that will provide for immediate needs such as shelter, meals, cleanup, etc. Catholic Charities’ McGruder Family Resource Center has served as a relief center in North Nashville during the first few days of the crisis. For example, Gideon’s Army Nashville and Hands On Nashville used McGruder as a base for volunteer efforts. BBQ On Relief provided thousands of meals to those affected in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Our staff and volunteers delivered food to neighbors in North Nashville when there was no electricity for us or anyone in the area. And our community center was a natural gathering place for community members who have trusted Catholic Charities to provide support in North Nashville over many decades.

We also want to thank Councilman Brandon Taylor and the Mayor’s office for their support of our efforts and for securing a consolidated site for donations at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School.

We are fortunate that McGruder FRC was not damaged by the storm and are happy to make it available to organizations who need space. It continues to be a meeting place for nonprofits working together on strategies to achieve the most impact. I want to thank the entire McGruder staff for their tireless efforts since the storm.

Commitment to Long-Term Recovery

The Catholic Charities team has spent the last week working on plans for how we will help in the long-term recovery in communities that need it most. For us, this currently means focusing on family counseling, housing, and long-term case management to connect people with resources. We will provide this support for months to years, as needed. These services are in addition to short-term cash assistance that we are already providing.

We are in the process of contracting with mental health professionals to supplement our existing staff. Counseling is available to any family regardless of financial situation. Our counselors are trained to assist families dealing with crisis, grief, depression, chemical dependency, and much more.

Within a day of the tornado, Catholic Charities USA – of which we are a member – donated $10,000 to our tornado-recovery efforts. They have also offered assistance for temporary counselors and case managers.

If you know anyone needing immediate assistance, please direct them to Catholic Charities’ main number, 615-352-3087.

Catholic Charities has a special relationship with the North Nashville community, largely because of the McGruder Family Resource Center and our connection to St. Vincent de Paul Church and its parish family through Saint Mary Villa Child Development Center. We love the people in this community; we are saddened by the extensive damage caused by last week’s storm.

North Nashville had challenges before the tornado; the storm damage has only exacerbated those challenges. This New York Times story – “A Tornado Decimated North Nashville. The Rebuilding May Destroy Its Soul.” – explains why North Nashville is so at risk.

Our hope is that no one is permanently relocated or made homeless because of the tornado. In the short term, this means providing housing and financial assistance so residents are not made homeless. We will update you as we formulate long-term plans for those needing help to remain in their homes.

We also treasure our neighbors in East Nashville, where our Loaves and Fishes program is housed at Holy Name Church’s Strobel Hall. Many of our neighbors also suffered devastating loss, and we are committed to helping them recover and rebuild. Our facility incurred slight damage and had no electricity for days. However, we improvised to provide sandwiches in the days after the tornado, and were able to restart our regular meal program yesterday. The program is also working with several area churches to provide food boxes from Second Harvest.

Thank You For Your Support

Thank you to everyone who donated to Catholic Charities since the tornado. We have raised more than $80,000 since the tornado tore through our region early on Tuesday, March 3. (Many donations are from outside of Tennessee. It is humbling and heart-warming to know that so many not directly impacted by March 3 are on our tornado relief team!) ~ These funds will be applied to providing case management assistance and counseling services to tornado survivors, as well as material assistance, when circumstances allow, for unmet needs. We learned during the recovery period for the May 2010 floods that these services are how we can best walk with survivors on the road to recovery.

Love, Goodwill, and Kindness

We have no doubt Nashville will recover from this natural disaster.

I’m reminded every day that love, goodwill, and kindness can heal those in need.

Fortunately, Nashville has all three in abundance.