Catholic Charities Update – March 2021
Added Mar 10, 2021

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Love, Hope, Healing

Your support has made the difference

What a year! Last year’s March 3 tornados set off a momentous chain of events. Our commemoration of the tornado anniversary was highlighted by a public art project. We visited four locations with plywood “canvases,” and invited neighbors to express their feelings by writing on the boards. Happily, this year’s March 3 was a glorious, sunny day. Planning and rollout of the art project, from North Nashville all the way to Lebanon, was a beautiful show of teamwork and caring by the Catholic Charities staff.

As I reflect on the trauma of the tornado and the 12 months that followed, I think about the donations and offers of help that poured in from around Tennessee and across the country. And also those who had never needed to ask for help from a social service agency – who had to navigate the overwhelmed systems, just to get basic necessities. The silver lining to 2020’s disasters is that new opportunities have come our way as an organization. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the support we received from so many.

Our team never lost sight of our core mission to help our neighbors in need and help restore their dignity. The Holy Spirit inspired our staff with great fortitude and ingenuity in the face of big challenges.

After showing our mettle through both tornado recovery and Covid-19 financial assistance programs, Catholic Charities was tapped to be the lead agency assisting survivors of the December 25 Downtown Nashville bombing. I discuss this in more detail below.

Would I have traded these 12 months for much calmer times? No. And I say that with certainty. Our mission – “Following Christ’s example, we recognize the dignity of all people and serve our neighbors” – and the words “Love, Hope, and Healing” never meant more than in the last year. We are now poised to be a strong presence in both disaster relief and hunger relief, with a new infrastructure in place. And our expansion into Middle Tennessee continues, with the launch of Tennessee Serves Neighbors.

Thank you for your continued support of this vital work that we have been called to do.

Nashville Strong 2021 – Update on December Bombing Assistance

Catholic Charities forms new partnership with Family & Children’s Service

Catholic Charities was tapped to be the lead agency providing financial assistance and trauma counseling to individuals and businesses impacted by the December 25 bombing in Downtown Nashville. Affected businesses, employees of those businesses, and residents of the area are all eligible.

We received $2 million thanks to a Victims of Crime Act grant from the State of Tennessee, and by December 31, we began accepting applications for aid at So far, we have had 275 qualified applications and have paid out nearly $350,000 in assistance. We are currently working more than 200 open cases that impact 455 individuals and their family members.

The recovery from this disaster will take many months if not years. The bombing site in the historic Downtown district is still closed and protected by police. Catholic Charities is working closely with Nashville Downtown Partnership, the FBI, and many other organizations coordinating the long-term recovery in this vital part of Downtown Nashville.

I am proud of the partnership created with Family & Children’s Service (FCS) that emphasizes free trauma counseling to all survivors. Catholic Charities and FCS have among the best counseling teams of any non-profits in Nashville. Our efforts include 24/7 access to trauma specialists, virtual support groups, and one-on-one counseling. We have access to a national team of mass violence experts, who have been advisors to us in developing our innovative and pandemic-friendly programs.

Healing from just a single traumatic event can be a lifetime journey. Coming to terms with that trauma is critical for overall well-being. But when there is a trifecta of trauma – the tornadoes, the pandemic, and the bombing – it may feel unsurmountable. Especially for those in the hospitality industry, offering them support is literally life-sustaining. More people have taken advantage of our counseling after the bombing than in any other disaster. I am glad our team of expert therapists has received some overdue attention for the great work they do every day.

Working closely with FCS on this disaster will also prepare both organizations to support our neighbors when the next disaster strikes. Catholic Charities was invited to be a member of the steering committee of a volunteer group of organizations working closely with the city and the state to hone an efficient and easily mobilized emergency response across the area. Nashville will be ready for the next disaster.

Visit for more information about assistance available for individuals and businesses ­– and ways you can help our neighbors.

Job Training Ramping Up Again

Three programs prepare individuals for new careers

Helping clients achieve self-sufficiency so they can provide for themselves and their families is the gold standard that Catholic Charities holds itself to.

While Catholic Charities’ job training program was impacted significantly by the pandemic, it is ramping back up and teaching students the skills they need to qualify for jobs in three in-demand industries: industrial sewing, culinary/hospitality, and banking.

The Sewing Training Academy taps into Nashville’s growing fashion industry. After an introductory module of sewing courses, students choose from one of three specializations based on their career goals. Students are taught by experienced teachers as well as guest lecturers who focus on higher level skills. STA students most recently dipped their toe in the water for a social enterprise, sewing aprons bearing our Love, Hope, Healing tagline that are available for purchase.

The Culinary Training Academy is a hands-on program taught in a commercial kitchen that prepares students to work in restaurants or hotels that are part of Nashville’s enormous hospitality industry. Many graduates start new jobs immediately, while others continue their culinary education thanks to a partnership with Nashville State Community College.

Unidos in Banking is a seven-week training program for those interested in starting a banking career. The program specifically targets individuals for whom English is a second language. Students learn basic banking skills and cash handling, customer service, problem solving, and interview skills.

The career development team is in the process of creating a Construction Training Academy for prime construction jobs that are abundant in the Nashville region. The team is also partnering with our Tennessee Serves Neighbors staff to create opportunities across the midstate.

Pathways to Possibilities Coming in April

Our annual April fundraising event, Pathways to Possibilities, will by necessity be a virtual event this year. We are in the process of finalizing exact details and will send you more information soon.

Catholic Charities exceeded its fundraising goal in 2020, the first time we ever hosted a virtual event. Thank you for your support, then. We are counting on your continued support this year.

Catholic Charities Launches Redesigned Website

Catholic Charities recently launched a new website! Our goal going into the redesign was to make it easier for people to find and get the help they need – Love, Hope, and Healing! Our premise was that website visitors either need help or want to help. To that end, the new website provides a clearer overall view of our broad-based agency and the many ways that Catholic Charities provides vital services to individuals, families, and communities in need.

The biggest change in the website is the introduction of eight “causes” that orient viewers to our many services, including:

In addition to easier navigation, the website is much more mobile-device-friendly. We know that many more people now use their phones as a primary device to search for information and request help—and to make donations.

Please take a look at the new website when you have an opportunity. It has been a labor of love for more than a year now, starting with the support of HCA Healthcare Foundation’s Hackathon initiative in early 2020. It is a work in progress – the beauty of the web! – and I look forward to your feedback.


Judy K. Orr
Executive Director



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