Disaster Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr
Added Apr 05, 2020

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

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