Advocating for our most vulnerable neighbors is important work. Catholic Charities was awarded a $15,000 grant to build a pilot program involving community outreach and education designed to increase understanding of our foreign-born neighbors and to build community. Kaleidoscope is the name we’ve given our program, which will culminate next spring with a family-friendly multicultural festival. It will celebrate the rich diversity of our local community. Food, hand-crafted items, and games will be part of the event.
We will host many of the ethnic and cultural Catholic communities in the area, as well as other organizations that focus on strengthening community bonds across Nashville’s many international groups.
Ten CC agencies across the country received the national grant from Catholic Charities USA, and each agency is addressing a specific issue in their communities and creating a program to bridge divides in their cities, reduce polarization, and enhance cohesion. CCUSA has brought together local Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA, and Interfaith America in the Nation of Bridge Builders initiative. Watch for more details at https://cctenn.org/kaleidoscopefestival/



Youth Mentoring Programs

Our Youth Programs are designed to support and empower newly arrived refugee, asylee, and migrant youth in achieving their educational and employment goals.

Did you know that our refugee neighbors who have a mentor have better mental and emotional health? 

Help us make Nashville’s future brighter!

  • Must be 21 years or older.
  • Commit to 6 months of at least 1-2 hour weekly mentorship.
  • Complete volunteer application that includes a background check.
  • Willingness to work with other cultures or differing language abilities.

If you are interested in helping to mentor our youth, please click here.

Contact us:

Pricilla Ntibonera Youth Mentoring Program Coordinator – pntibonera@cctenn.org

Ellen YatesRefugee Youth Mentoring Program – eyates@cctenn.org


Funding Now Available to Assist Ukrainians

Catholic Charities has funding available to assist Ukrainians who have come to the United States while fleeing war in their home country.

We can help individuals and families with housing, utilities, healthcare, employment assistance, education for school-aged children and a host of other services.

This funding is available immediately but will expire on Oct. 31.

If you know of an individual or family needing assistance, please contact our agency at (615) 352-3087 or have the family reach out. Our team will be happy to help them apply.

Many of the Ukrainians who have entered the country since the war started in their homeland are designated as “humanitarian parolees.” This means they are allowed by the federal government to be in the United States for up to two years based on an urgent humanitarian need. They must apply for and be granted refugee status if they want to remain in the United States permanently. This designation also allows them to receive aid from organizations like ours.

Catholic Charities to apply for 21CCLC grant

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville is applying for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) grant to support the Refugee Youth Program. Part of the application process is announcing it on social media. The Refugee Youth Program is a therapeutic afterschool program for refugee, asylee, and migrant children that have experienced complex trauma. The purpose of the program is to mitigate the impact of complex trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences and to provide academic support and enrichment to children whose education has been interrupted by violence, poverty, oppression, and discrimination.

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 beverett@cctenn.org 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 www.NashvilleStrong2021.org.

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

Tennessee Register Highlights Case Managers Helping Afghan Arrivals

Tennessee Register had an excellent article highlighting the work of Catholic Charities’ case managers welcoming new Afghan arrivals.

Case managers are responsible for helping Afghan families acclimate to their new lives in the U.S.

Kellye Branson, Refugee and Immigration Services director, said the case managers are among the most essential parts of the department.

“They’re critical. They are the first ones to have contact with our clients. They basically set the stage for the interaction between our agency and the people that we serve,” Branson said. “They are responsible not only for getting people to appointments but for paying attention to any concerns that might be there, either spoken or unspoken.”

Read the full article on Tennessee Register website

Case managers do much more than supporting New Americans. They play a vital role helping those who need emergency assistance and disaster survivors find critical services they need to rebuild their lives.

Welcoming New Americans

Deanna Dibin’s family immigrated to the United States from Azerbaijan with the help of several organizations, including Catholic Charities.

Her story reflects what many of the 50,000 Afghan families coming to the United States as part of the Afghan Placement Assistance Program are feeling and experiencing right now. Catholic Charities expects to help 150 individuals resettle in Nashville in the coming months.

Deanna recounts in this short video how good it made her and her family feel to arrive in America to a furnished apartment with a fully stocked kitchen after leaving almost everything they had when they fled Azerbaijan.

Today, Deanna serves on the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees, where she is helping pay it forward for the next generation of New Americans arriving in Middle Tennessee.

If you would like to help support the resettlement of Afghan families, Catholic Charities has three ways you can give.

Catholic Charities to Welcome New Americans from Afghanistan

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville expects to resettle 150 or more Afghans into local communities as part of the effort to help them escape Taliban rule under the State Department’s Afghan Placement Assistance Program.

Helping New Americans acclimate to their new lives in the United States has been an important ministry since our founding in 1962.

Tennessee Office for Refugees (TOR) is a department of Catholic Charities designated and funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to administer the state refugee resettlement program. For detailed, up-to-date information about the evacuees, the process of being vetted, temporary holding sites, and national programs for assigning evacuees to U.S. communities, please visit the Afghanistan Crisis Response page on the TOR website.

How You Can Help

Support for our New Americans program is critically needed right now. Catholic Charities will receive very little notice about the arrival of new families. We have to quickly secure housing, stock pantries, purchase linens, and much more.

You can click any of the amounts below to donate directly or see additional options for supporting New Americans.

Catholic Charities has also created a special Amazon Wish List if you would prefer to give that way.

Catholic Charities may eventually accept in-kind donations and other items. We are still determining specific needs and how those items will be collected. We will post requests on our website and social media, as they are identified.

In the future, we expect to need volunteers and mentors to work with the many new families coming to Middle Tennessee. Look for more soon.

When Do Families Begin Arriving?

We cannot say exactly. Here’s a summary of the process that is taking place right now as reported in The Tennessee Register.

Individuals and families are vetted and screened by the Department of Homeland Security, which includes “biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals,” before they come to the United States, according to the department.

Once the Afghans arrive in the U.S., they are further processed at one of eight military bases. This consists of medical screenings, including testing for COVID-19, receiving vaccinations, applying for immigration status, and more as coordinated by the U.S. State Department.

Frances Anderson, Tennessee Office for Refugees state refugee health coordinator, deployed to Fort Bliss to assist the State Department in recent processing efforts.

PHOTO CREDIT – Tennessee Register  – CNS photo/Olivier Douliery, pool via Reuters

Future Refugee Resettlements Remain In Limbo As Tennessee’s Governor Mulls A Decision (Sergio Martinez-Beltran, WPLN)

Gov. Bill Lee has a little over a month to decide whether Tennessee will continue allowing the resettlement of refugees.

The decision was prompted by an executive order issued by President Trump in September, which asks both states and cities to “consent in writing” if they want to continue refugee resettlements.

States live Virginia and Utah have already said yes.

But Tennessee has yet to respond. The delay has caused concern among refugee organizations. The largest resettlement agency in the state, the Catholic Charities of Tennessee, says it’s been lobbying Gov. Bill Lee to consent.

“We are a dynamic growing state, and our economy is strong, and these people have contributed a considerable amount to many of the businesses here locally,” said Judy Orr, the executive director of the nonprofit.

The governor’s office told WPLN it’s waiting on additional guidance from the federal government to make a final decision.

Agencies Could Lose Money

Since assuming office, Trump has been placing caps on how many refugees can come to the country. For the 2020 fiscal year, that number is 18,000.

This past year, fewer than 700 refugees were resettled in Tennessee. That’s a smaller number than past years, Orr said.

Tennessee currently has five organizations — including Catholic Charities of Tennessee — that receive federal funding to help refugees transition into their new life in the United States. The money is used for needs such as housing, transportation and food.

If the state ends up refusing resettlements, refugees would be placed in another state.

They could, later, move to Tennessee if they want, but Orr said refugees and organizations in the state could face additional challenges.

“The money that is allotted for each of the refugees to help settle them over time will not follow. It will only be available if they stay in the city where they have been accepted orginially,” she says.

SOURCE: https://wpln.org/post/future-refugee-resettlements-remain-in-limbo-as-tennessees-governor-mulls-a-decision/