From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director
Catholic Charities Receives $7.3 Million State Grant to Create Tennessee Serves Neighbors
Five new Family Resource Centers planned in 2021
Catholic Charities has received one of the largest grants in our history to expand services into 10 additional counties that are part of the Diocese of Nashville.
The Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, Bishop of the Nashville Diocese, asked me to find a way to expand services to all Diocese counties when I joined Catholic Charities in mid-2019. This grant is a huge step toward achieving that goal.
The grant comes from the Tennessee Department of Human Services as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal program. Over time, the state had accumulated more than $700 million in that fund and spent much of the last year identifying organizations that could best use that money to help families in need
The application for Tennessee Serves Neighbors, which is what we call the program, focused on several important qualifications.
The first was Catholic Charities’ experience building and operating family resource centers where people can come for a wide variety of services, including help in an immediate crisis as well as ongoing services that reduce the overall reliance on government services. Catholic Charities has more than two decades of experience operating similar programs at Catholic Charities at C. E. McGruder in North Nashville and Catholic Charities at Casa Azafrán in South Nashville. We have the model that is ready to customize to additional counties.
We also pointed out in our application our ability to leverage the large Catholic Church parish network to provide volunteers and family mentors. Once we have the roadmap, the program could be expanded to the Catholic Charities agencies serving East and West Tennessee. Catholic Charities is fortunate to have a good working relationship with Gov. Bill Lee’s Office of Faith and Community Based Initiatives that helped us be selected for this grant.
Our goal is to have a multi-generational impact in the counties served. We will provide both safety net for families in crisis and enhanced services that foster independence from government support for two or more generations. In particular, we will focus on job training, life skills (e.g. financial management), and building healthy, stable families. Some of the key partners in each county will be healthcare providers helping people navigate the many challenges with today’s healthcare system.
I am thrilled that many of the new employees we expect to bring on who will live and work in the communities they serve. This is an important part of our community-based approach, which recognized the unique needs of the clients we help. We will also provide vital training opportunities for colleges and university master’s level students, like the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, to work in the social services field through formal internships or preceptorships.
In 2020, we expect to add services in five counties: Montgomery, Maury, Marshall, Bedford, and Coffee. The following year, we plan to add Grundy, Warren, White, Dekalb, and Putnam. In total, Tennessee Serves Neighbors will direct about $7.3 million in services to these counties over the next two years.
Catholic Charities agencies across the country have historically been the largest provider of social services, after the government, dating back to early 1900s and culminating in many of the Depression-era and post-World War II social service programs created by the federal government.
I am proud of the entire team for helping build on this tradition and excited about the opportunity to serve more of our neighbors in the most need. I look forward to sharing future updates about Tennessee Serves Neighbors.
News coverage of Tennessee Serves Neighbors:
“Catholic Charities receives $7.3 million state grant to expand services into 10 counties” – The Tennessean
“$7.3M grant enables Catholic Charities to expand into more counties” – Tennessee Register
Judy K. Orr
Executive Director, Catholic Charities
Feeding ministry gets creative, tackles new demand
Never missed a meal during pandemic
Speaking of serving our neighbors, Catholic Charities’ signature feeding ministry, Loaves and Fishes, has adapted well to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current health guidelines have halted indoor congregant service three days a week that so many guests rely on and was the hallmark of Loaves and Fishes.
But Loaves and Fishes never missed serving a single meal. At first, we resorted to Father Strobel’s original solution: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lovingly made and distributed at the door.
Over the months, the program leaders adopted creative and fulfilling adaptations, including:
- Making “to-go” meals in carry-out containers
- Devising menus better suited for food boxes
- Recruiting volunteers from the parishes for contact-less meal delivery
- Tapping a part-time workforce to meet the demand from our Catholic Charities programs that were temporarily closed
- Contacting past clients to ensure they had food, knowing many families, with older relatives as well as children, were hunkered down together at home
We were also fortunate to partner with World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization that paid local restaurants to prepare to-go meals. The partnership provided our guests with more than 1,000 delicious and nutritious meals as well as much-needed employment for the kitchen staffs at local restaurants.
The demand for meal services did not abate because of the pandemic. It increased dramatically and, most poignantly, among those who never used social services before. We know it is important to strengthen programs that relieve people’s food expenses and enable them to pay their rent, utilities, and other essentials.
Recent news coverage of hunger relief programs:
“Meals program feeds hungry, employs workers” – Tennessee Register
“New refrigerators, freezers help Catholic Charities expand food programs” – Tennessee Register
“I received the gift card. A welcome gift. I’m going to get groceries for the next couple weeks. My wife, she’s been through a lot with all this. I wish I was better with words as I cannot express my gratitude. This has been a true Godsend for us. This will help us bounce back so much more quickly.”
Doing our part for hurricane victims
Catholic Charities sends tractor trailer of essential to hurricane survivors in Louisiana
On August 2020, Hurricane Laura tied to be the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in Louisiana. The Catholic Schools and parish rectories in Lake Charles were among the multitude of buildings and homes that were severely damaged and unable to reopen.
Of course, we had our own recent experience with natural disaster—the tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee in March (we continue to provide support for those survivors). We were overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of financial and moral support from across the country. This Catholic Charities wanted to pay it forward, and we knew we had to help our neighbors in another state during this trying time.
Our team immediately reached out to Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana to ask about basic needs and ensure we would send the items people needed most. We then put out a call for donations in mid-September for tarps, batteries, toiletries, nonperishable food items, cleaning supplies, and monetary donations. We made a call to Catholic Charities USA to find out if another vehicle might partner with us. CCUSA graciously provided a grant to cover the transport costs. We filled a cargo van and sent it on to Louisiana at the beginning of November. We also collected more than $15,000 in cash donations that we forwarded to CCSWLA.
Thanks to everyone for your support.
Disaster relief has become an increasingly important part of our work. We are in the process of creating a permanent disaster relief fund that can be used for local emergencies and to provide support to other communities. If you are planning year-end giving, please consider giving to our disaster relief fund. Every dollar counts.
CARES Act financial assistance available
Distributing $1 million to those hurt most by COVID-19
Catholic Charities has received more than $1 million in CARES Act funding to distribute to those impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the funds will be used to help those who have lost jobs or had their wages cut.
If you know someone needing help with rent, mortgage, or utilities payments, please share the following link with them.
Catholic Charities has also hired 10 temporary case managers to help applicants through the process and access much-needed financial relief.
Our experience as a key partner in distributing Nashville’s COVID-19 Response Fund enabled us to build an even better program for CARES Act funding. The CARES Act funding was provided by the State of Tennessee and Metro Nashville through United Way of Greater Nashville.
“I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much from the bottom of my heart for your assistance with my tornado damage. Please pass this along to everyone involved at your wonderful charity organization to let them know my sincere appreciation and gratitude. As a widow, God promises in the bible that he will care for all widows, and I can personally attest to that fact, with help from wonderful and Godly organizations such as the one you work for.”
Catholic Charities helps refugee school children
Our work with new refugee resettlement has largely been on hold since the pandemic struck. One thing that has not ended is the need to continue supporting refugees already building a new life in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Register had a great story about how Catholic Charities is working with Metro Nashville Public Schools to help refugee children with virtual learning education.
As the story notes, many of refugee children are not fluent in English and need help keeping up with their assignments and managing technology issues. Catholic Charities matches refugee families with “super supporters,” our re-purposed after-school program counselors who pivoted to this creative support program.
2020 is the year of adjusting on the fly. Our team has done a remarkable job supporting refugee families in these challenging times for everyone.