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 Possibilities. It 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 email@example.com 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
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville