Catholic Charities News – December 2022

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Nashville Heals program brings hope and recovery

Christmas is fast approaching, but for those who lived and worked on Second Avenue on Christmas Day 2020, life may never be quite the same. It will take many normal Christmases before the lingering feelings of shock and grief will dissipate.

Catholic Charities is honored to be selected to administer Nashville Heals, a counseling and trauma awareness outreach program.

For many survivors of traumatic events, such as the bombing, aftereffects can be internalized and repressed. Sometimes nagging physical symptoms such as headaches or trouble sleeping are tied to the event, and people don’t realize it for months or years later. Anniversary dates of events can be triggers, adding to holiday stress in completely new and unfamiliar ways. Across the country, after mass disasters, specially trained counselors are routinely made available when the dust begins to settle after such events.

Nashville Heals will provide that specialty counseling, along with public presentations to educate the community about this serious condition that affects one’s quality of life. Be on the listen for radio spots running on local stations throughout December and in the coming winter months. For help or more information, go to

Matching gift helps families find healing

Families joyfully celebrating the holidays—it’s one of those pictures we see on Publix TV ads. But many families don’t fit that happy picture. After several tumultuous years, many of our neighbors are still struggling to meet their most basic needs. They may be facing eviction, unable to feed their families a real meal every day, and coming up short to pay for heat and electricity. And not knowing what to do next.

Every day we receive more than 50 requests for basic needs assistance like these. Christan’s story is just one example of how circumstances beyond your control can put you into a tailspin. With a hand up, you can get back on track.

Being able to help is the God-given privilege and joy that all of us at Catholic Charities experience. We want you to share in that blessing of helping our neighbors during the holidays.

Thanks to the generosity of the Sumpter Yeaman Foundation, every dollar you give to support neighbors in need will be matched up to $200,000, through December 31.

Shining a light on our good work in Middle Tennessee

We are grateful to the Christian-based initiative Light the World, which chose Catholic Charities to be a featured charity of the “Giving Machines” in Cool Springs Mall.

The vending machines enable purchases of specific items needed by our clients. Christmas shoppers can swipe their credit card at the machine and perform a great act of kindness, in the convenience of a familiar location. After a visit to the mall Santa, children can learn first-hand how easy it is to give to those less fortunate.

On December 20, join us at The Giving Machine, near Belk, when Catholic Charities will be on site with musicians and sewing academy students to spread a little holiday cheer and raise awareness of our services and their impact For more information visit

Read more about Giving Machines Nashville in The Tennessee Register

Good News In Brief

  • Annabelle Cruz-Orengo has joined the staff as Deputy Executive Director, Administration. Annabelle is a native of Puerto Rico, and most recently was senior director for operations for the startup nonprofit Tennessee Charitable Care Network, building their operations from the ground up. She also is the former Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for Family & Children’s Service.
  • As the year comes to a close, we are excited to report on our burgeoning volunteer and intern program, which has grown to a total of 700 volunteers and 41 interns who served in 2022. Catholic Charities has a wide range of opportunities for those who would enjoy supporting our various locations and programs. All types of expertise and training are useful, and we pray that 2023 will bring us even more volunteers and student interns. If you or someone you know is looking for a school-based internship, please contact Barbara Beswick at For volunteer opportunities, go to volunteer.cctenn.orgFor those looking for paid employment, job openings are listed at join our team, one way or another.
  • Catholic Charities and Catholic Pastoral Center offices will be closed December 23-January 2, for the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays.
  • Did you know? Haitians and Cubans have access to federal benefits when applying at authorized agencies, including Catholic Charities. Conditions in those countries are difficult, and we are serving a greater number than usual. For the next few weeks, and during the holidays, we will pause enrollments and close our waitlist until we can serve those already in queue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we also work to hire more case managers. In the meantime, applicants can apply for SNAP and TANF benefits directly on their own, by contacting the appropriate state agency.

May love, hope, and healing be yours, during this blessed season of Advent and Christmas.

Catholic Charities News – September 2022

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Needlink moving to Catholic Charities at C.E. McGruder

Partnerships are critical to the success of social service agencies like Catholic Charities.

We are delighted that Needlink will move to the Catholic Charities Family Resource Center at C.E. McGruder in November.

Needlink helps people meet basic needs in times of crisis, especially those facing eviction or the shut-off of their utilities. Many of the organization’s clients live in the 37208 zip code where C.E. McGruder is located.

Needlink’s move increases the number of case managers who work out of C.E. McGruder and are available to meet in person with clients.

Catholic Charities will provide Needlink clients access to additional services and expertise – emotional support and job training, for example – that help prevent future crises and a cycle of dependence on emergency assistance programs.

We look forward to welcoming and working closely with the Needlink team. A highly respected long-time Nashville nonprofit, Needlink has a 100-year-plus history in Nashville. It got its start as Big Brothers and raised funds through its annual Christmas Eve paper sale.

Aid Available for Ukrainians Fleeing War

Catholic Charities has funding available to assist Ukrainians who have fled war in their homeland.

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.

Individuals and families can call our offices at (615) 352-3087 to get help applying for aid.

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. This designation allows them to receive aid from organizations like Catholic Charities.

Sept. 22 Mass to Celebrate Our 60th Anniversary

The Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, J.C.L., Bishop of Nashville, will celebrate Catholic Charities’ 60th anniversary at a special Mass on Sept. 22 at 2:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend this special celebration in Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Church at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville.

The celebration will include a tribute to our first program, the temporary resettlement of Cuban children during the political turmoil in 1962, and sacred music in Spanish. A reception with refreshments will follow Mass.

If you are interested in attending, please R.S.V.P. to Betsy Everett at

Please take a minute to watch Magdaly’s story. She is one of our “alumni”—past clients featured during El Festival de Esperanza, which kicked off our 60th anniversary celebration in April. We are grateful to so many like Magdaly who wanted to pay it forward by sharing her story of success. The 60th anniversary celebration will continue with special events throughout the year.

Good News In Brief

  • Catholic Charities has received a grant to add five new positions through a partnership with the Martha O’Bryan Center. The partnership focuses on counseling that builds healthy families. We will share more about this partnership soon.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is donating 26 pallets of canned food, including fruits, vegetables, pasta, and sauces, to our hunger relief programs. We are grateful for this generous and much-needed donation.
  • Giving Machines Nashville has selected Catholic Charities as a 2022 beneficiary. During the holiday season, a vending machine located at Cool Springs Galleria will accept donations for Catholic Charities and other local non-profits. The non-profits will receive 100 percent of the donations.
  • Gresham Smith will provide pro bono support to create a master plan to rehab our playground at the Catholic Pastoral Center. The playground is used mainly by refugee schoolchildren in our after-school and summer programs. The playground site has not been updated since it was built nearly 40 years ago. Watch for more information about how you can support this project.

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 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

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

Catholic Charities Update – June 2021

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Support for Pathways to Possibilities

I want to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported our virtual fundraiser Pathways to Possibilities presented by First Horizon. Just a few short weeks ago we shared the stories of Demetrius, Deanna, and Linda, each of whom told their story of being helped when they needed it most. Many were inspired by their wish to give back. If you didn’t get a chance to view their mesmerizing stories, please take a few minutes now:

The challenges of the past year along with the disasters taught us all that any of us can be in harm’s way. Our annual fundraising campaign is critical to supporting the ongoing work of providing “Love, Hope, and Healing” to those in need in our community.

That’s why we still need additional gifts to make our goal. Our campaign is not over and there is still time to give!

In a not-to-be-missed rare chat with Bishop Spalding — on the Pathways website — he reveals his own inspiring journey towards answering the call to serve others.

Unidos in Banking Graduates Two Classes

Training people for in-demand jobs is one of Catholic Charities’ most important services and critical to our goal of helping people become self-reliant.

Unidos in Banking is a seven-week program that teaches banking skills to people for whom English is not their first language. The program includes banking-specific skills, such as cash management and customer service, and interpersonal skills, such as relationship building.

The Unidos team pivoted to virtual learning during the pandemic and recently held a graduation for 16 students who completed the program in 2021. Ten graduates are already employed, while the others are in initial stages of the hiring process. Congratulations to the graduates for their accomplishments and the Unidos team for their creativity and commitment during difficult times.

Unidos in Banking is now enrolling students for the July/August session. Please share the Unidos website with anyone you know who could benefit.

Whataburger Meets with Job-Training Team

Speaking of helping people find sustainable work, our job-training team recently met with a group of executives from Whataburger who were visiting our city where they plan to open new stores. We were impressed with their corporate commitment to wages that are higher than average for the market and in their commitment to building a culture of employee development and promotion. We look forward to helping Whataburger build their team. And we are thrilled about yet another major entity reaching out to partner with Catholic Charities to try to improve the lives of our neighbors.

Disaster Recovery Update

Catholic Charities has always provided emergency assistance to those in need, but in 2020, we scaled up disaster recovery services dramatically to serve people in mass disasters. Most recently we joined other city agencies to respond to flood survivors. The severity of flooding was second only to the epic May 2010 flood.

Short Term Services Manager Heather Mencke (pictured above) now leads Catholic Charities’ disaster recovery efforts. For a decade, Heather developed expertise in disaster recovery, working most recently with tornado relief in Nashville and before that for Catholic Charities of Central Florida.

We are now recognized by state and local officials as the lead agency for mass disaster relief. If you know anyone still needing help related to the 2020 tornado, recent flooding, or the Christmas day bombing, please ask them to submit an online application for assistance.

Nashville Predators Foundation Grant

Big shout-out to the Nashville Predators Foundation who awarded us a grant to enhance our HOPE Program. HOPE provides free trauma counseling to children who have lost a loved one to a violent crime or who witnessed violence in their homes or communities. The program offers both specialty counseling, and because of the Preds we can expand with innovative play therapy toys and techniques that help children express their fears and anxieties through play.

Youth Soccer Event at McGruder on June 12

Want to check out a real kid-sized soccer mini-pitch built by Nashville Soccer Club? The Nashville SC IMPACT Soccer Pop-Up Tour sponsored by BODYARMOR is partnering with us from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 12 at our Catholic Charities Family Resource Center at C. E. McGruder (2013 25th Avenue North).

Don’t miss this cool pop-up event, which will include family-friendly soccer activities, inflatable pitches, 3v3 tournaments, and drills for soccer skills. Street teams from the Nashville SC and BODYARMOR will be onsite to provide fanfare, music, prizes, and giveaways.

Please join us at this fun and festive event, which is free and open to any youth.

Thank you, truly, for all your support of Catholic Charities over these many months. As we approach our year end on June 30, we would be grateful for any gift that will allow us to continue being the hands and feet of Christ on your behalf.


Judy K. Orr
Executive Director


Catholic Charities Update – March 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



Executive Director Judy K. Orr Discusses Nashville Recovery on “JustLove” Radio Program on The Catholic Channel

Executive Director Judy K. Orr was a guest on SiriusXM The Catholic Channel’s “JustLove” radio program last week where she discussed Catholic Charities’ role in the recovery following the bombing that occurred on the morning of December 25 in Downtown Nashville.

A recording of the program is available on the JustLove show blog. The interview with Orr starts at 32:40 of the hour-long program.

Orr said, “I appreciate the spotlight that ‘JustLove’ gave us, and the opportunity to share with a national audience how the Nashville community is working together for all those impacted by the bombing.”

“JustLove” is hosted by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, whose agency provided recovery services after the 9/11 bombing at the World Trade Center in New York City.

If you are having trouble opening the link, please cut and paste the following into your browser —

Catholic Charities Update – January 2021

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Recovery Is Just the Beginning

From Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville

Serving our neighbors—whenever and however they need it—is unpredictable work. This was abundantly clear in 2020, with tornados, Covid-19’s myriad tragedies, and now a bomb explosion that devastated the heart of Nashville.

I am proud to share with you that Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, has been tapped to lead the recovery efforts for the survivors of the bombing that occurred in Downtown Nashville the morning of December 25. Our efforts, named Nashville Strong 2021, dovetail with the larger city-wide recovery initiative involving government and non-profit organizations.

Close to 2,000 survivors have lost a job, a home, or a business – in some cases all three. Since January 1, we have been taking applications from those who need help with rent, utilities, food assistance, counseling, and more.

This is intense work, but it’s try a privilege.

Recovery for survivors will take many months, and specialized counseling will be key to successful recovery. Catholic Charities has created a special fund if you would like to support our recovery efforts. You can donate any amount you would like at any time at

If you would like to stay up to date about the recovery efforts, you can visit the Nashville Strong page on our website or the special website called we have created specifically for the recovery efforts.

Every year may not be as traumatic as 2020—and we pray not—but every year, each day, our community can count on us to serve our neighbors. Our work in 2021 and beyond will surely be shaped by these events. And please remember that all of these unexpected challenges are layered on top of the work we already do to serve thousands each year.

Looking Forward to 2021

As we enter 2021, I want to share a few additional thoughts about our experiences and our future priorities.

The tornadoes on March 3 changed 2020 for many people and businesses. We are fortunate to have Catholic Charities at C. E. McGruder, where we provided coordinated resources to North Nashville as well as a much-needed base for other community partners.

In mid-March, we began work to distribute $1.5 million from the Nashville Covid-19 Response Fund as well as CARES Act funding.

Loaves and Fishes never missed a meal service. We saw first-hand that food insecurity snowballed to be a top issue for many of our neighbors.

In late 2020, we received the largest grant in our history, from the State of Tennessee, and we launched Tennessee Serves Neighbors, which will be the biggest expansion in our history. Catholic Charities will expand to five new counties in 2021 and an additional five in 2022. We just announced the first three team members who will lead this expansion.

Now more than ever, our team is focused on seven core causes important to our mission:

Disaster Relief and Recovery

Last year’s disasters proved how essential it is to be prepared for the next big disaster in Nashville and to have the ability to help our nearby communities when they are impacted by disasters.

Emergency Services

Our Basic Needs program provides an important lifeline to many families facing eviction or utility shutoffs; experiencing food insecurity; and struggling to pay for life’s necessities.

Emotional Support

Many, many people will continue to face psychological and emotional challenges caused by the events of 2020. Our counseling program for individuals, families, children, and older adults are vital to emotional recovery and self sustainability.

Housing Security

Stable housing, especially for young children, is paramount for a successful life, and 2021 will present many more families with this challenge.

Hunger Relief

Preventing food insecurity for everyone – not just the unhoused – will be a priority. We expanded our relief program in 2020 and plan to do much more in the coming years.

Job Training

Job training will receive new emphasis as we emerge from the pandemic and facilitate access to skills training needed for in-demand jobs.

Refugee and Immigrant Support

Catholic Charities was founded to help those new to this country. We will continue to support refugee and immigrant families working hard every day to build a better life.

Love, Hope, Healing

So many of our neighbors need help. If anything, those needs are greater than ever.

It is our moral obligation to provide love, hope, and healing anywhere we can.

We all know that 2020 was hard on everyone. I hope you will consider giving to Catholic Charities at this crucial time when resources are running out for many. The recovery from all that happened in 2020 is just beginning. Every dollar you give matters and will help our neighbors most in need.

If you are able, please help your neighbors by going to

Thank you and may God bless you and your loved ones.

Judy K. Orr
Executive Director
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville

Catholic Charities Update – November 2020

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

Thank you from a Catholic Charities client

“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.

Thank you from a Catholic Charities client

“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.

Read the story from The Tennessee Register

Catholic Charities Update – Summer 2020

From Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Catholic Charities, Conexión Américas announce new partnership

South Nashville Family Resource Center has new home

Success in the nonprofit world is often proportional to the partnerships you form. I am excited about our new partnership with Conexión Américas that will relocate our South Nashville Family Resource Center team to Conexión’s Casa Azafrán facility in August.

Catholic Charities and Conexión are the definition of complementary organizations. Together, we will serve the full range of client needs from financial assistance for an immediate crisis to job training to parenting skills and so much more.

The South Nashville team includes five employees who will work at Casa Azafrán full-time and four others who will work there part-time. Collectively, they specialize in support services – such as case management, immigration assistance, parenting, and counseling – tailored to the Hispanic and Latino communities.

What excites me most is that we can take what we’ve learned from our work at Catholic Charities at C. E. McGruder in North Nashville to create yet another true family resource center. More than anything, we have learned the importance of having a convenient location in the community where people know and trust they will find a wide range of support and care.

I am immensely grateful to Conexión for welcoming us. And I cannot wait to see the impact on our South Nashville neighbors over the next year.

Pathways to Possibilities 2020

Thanks for helping us exceed goal

The coronavirus pandemic forced us to change Pathways to Possibilities, our largest annual fundraiser, from an in-person to a virtual event this year.

I am happy to report that we exceeded our goal of $125,000. In total, we raised a little more than $135,000. Thank you to everyone who gave and shared information about Pathways with their friends and family. This is a testament to the strength and caring of the Catholic Charities community.

The proceeds from Pathways are already being put to use in the Nashville community helping those impacted by the March tornadoes, job loss due to coronavirus, and other challenges that we address.

I want to say a special thank you to Bishop J. Mark Spalding for his unwavering support as well as Claudia and Pete Weber, who recorded an introductory video for us. Pete was scheduled to serve as master of ceremonies before we were forced to postpone the event.

Counseling vital to recovery

Counseling team already helping with emotional toll from pandemic, tornadoes

Catholic Charities knows from our recovery work after the historic Nashville flood in 2010 that it took as long as two years for many people to recover fully.

The physical recovery was relatively short, compared to the emotional and psychological recovery, which took much longer.

Every day, we see news stories about the negative effects of the coronavirus on mental health. There is so much frustration, grief, anger, confusion, isolation, etc. The Tennessee Register explored the especially devastating impact on immigrant and refugee communities.

The emotional recovery from coronavirus and its economic toll – which is magnified for some by the March tornadoes – will last many years. These setbacks can have multi-generational impact.

Catholic Charities’ extensive team of licensed counselors has been in the trenches helping. Our therapists have a broad range of experience working with children, adults, and families to mitigate the effects of depression, anxiety, interpersonal and relationship challenges, and even trauma from violent crimes. Catholic Charities at Casa Azafrán will offer bilingual counseling to serve the Hispanic and Latino communities.

At its core, counseling helps people develop coping and resiliency skills. Counselors typically work one on one with clients either in person (when possible) or via telehealth. Counselors also manage groups who share common issues, such as honing parenting skills.

Counseling may not be our most high-profile service, but it is vital for our neighbors to endure and recover from the current crises.

Importance of listening

Recognizing the dignity of all people

This is a short but poignant story about the importance of listening right now.

When people call Catholic Charities, the first person they often speak with is Susan Netter, our receptionist. Susan tells me that she prays every day that those most in need, especially those who have fallen through the cracks, will call Catholic Charities. Before saying goodbye, many callers thank Susan for just listening when nobody else did.

Taking time to listen is how we can all answer the call of our mission statement, to recognize the dignity of all people, and begin to restore their hope.

Tornado relief team expands, returns to work

Experienced team leads effort in North Nashville

The tornado relief team in North Nashville is back to work after several months of being sidelined by coronavirus.

Shaveh Jackson is our newest addition. She joined Catholic Charities as tornado case manager. Shaveh is very familiar with the North Nashville community having worked most recently for Gideon’s Army.

Shaveh joins Alisha Haddock, director of community-based services and manager of McGruder, and LaShunda White, case manager at McGruder, to solidify a talented, experienced team to help 37208 residents impacted by the tornadoes make repairs to their homes or, if necessary, find new housing.

Catholic Charities 2020-21 Board of Trustees

Board elects new officers, welcomes four new members

The 2020-21 Board of Trustees officially took office on July 1 with the start of the new business year.


  • President – Matt Curley – Bass, Berry and Sims
  • Vice President – Gina Emmanuel – Centric Architecture
  • Treasurer – Mike Nunan – Nunan and Associates
  • Secretary – John Brew – Gresham, Smith and Partners

Board of Directors (* denotes new member)

  • Heidi Bundren – Nashville Predators
  • Sherry Cummings * – University of Tennessee College of Social Work
  • Deanna Dibin * – Carr, Riggs & Ingram
  • Katherine Duck – Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
  • William Farmer – Farmer Purcell White & Lassiter, PLLC
  • Deacon Bill Hill – St. Vincent de Paul Church
  • Reverend Mark Hunt – Mary, Queen of Angels
  • Shandy Husmann – Huron Consulting Group
  • Catherine Kelly * – Community volunteer and co-owner of Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse
  • Stacey Garrett Koju – Bone McAllester Norton PLLC
  • Mark Lenihan * – Sims Funk
  • Bill McGugin – Iroquois Capital Group/Reit Investment Group
  • Jim McIntyre – Father Ryan High School
  • Greg Pope – Saint Thomas Health
  • Mike Ratino – Asurion
  • Rochelle Reding – Coldwell Banker Barnes
  • Patrick Sheehy – Tennessee Business Roundtable
  • Russell Taber – Riley, Warnock & Jacobson
  • Drew Tyrer – TriStar Summit Medical Center
  • Michael Veinbergs – Regions Bank

Judy K. Orr, Executive Director

Disaster Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr

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

Tornado Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr

The Catholic Charities of Tennessee team continues to pray for and work for the continued healing of our community members affected by last week’s devastating tornado, especially those who lost loved ones. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to us asking about our wellbeing and offering ways to join us in helping our neighbors.

I want to share a few brief updates from Catholic Charities of Tennessee regarding how we are helping our communities heal.

Relief Center at McGruder Family Resource Center

Nashville has many wonderful organizations dedicated to crisis response that will provide for immediate needs such as shelter, meals, cleanup, etc. Catholic Charities’ McGruder Family Resource Center has served as a relief center in North Nashville during the first few days of the crisis. For example, Gideon’s Army Nashville and Hands On Nashville used McGruder as a base for volunteer efforts. BBQ On Relief provided thousands of meals to those affected in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Our staff and volunteers delivered food to neighbors in North Nashville when there was no electricity for us or anyone in the area. And our community center was a natural gathering place for community members who have trusted Catholic Charities to provide support in North Nashville over many decades.

We also want to thank Councilman Brandon Taylor and the Mayor’s office for their support of our efforts and for securing a consolidated site for donations at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School.

We are fortunate that McGruder FRC was not damaged by the storm and are happy to make it available to organizations who need space. It continues to be a meeting place for nonprofits working together on strategies to achieve the most impact. I want to thank the entire McGruder staff for their tireless efforts since the storm.

Commitment to Long-Term Recovery

The Catholic Charities team has spent the last week working on plans for how we will help in the long-term recovery in communities that need it most. For us, this currently means focusing on family counseling, housing, and long-term case management to connect people with resources. We will provide this support for months to years, as needed. These services are in addition to short-term cash assistance that we are already providing.

We are in the process of contracting with mental health professionals to supplement our existing staff. Counseling is available to any family regardless of financial situation. Our counselors are trained to assist families dealing with crisis, grief, depression, chemical dependency, and much more.

Within a day of the tornado, Catholic Charities USA – of which we are a member – donated $10,000 to our tornado-recovery efforts. They have also offered assistance for temporary counselors and case managers.

If you know anyone needing immediate assistance, please direct them to Catholic Charities’ main number, 615-352-3087.

Catholic Charities has a special relationship with the North Nashville community, largely because of the McGruder Family Resource Center and our connection to St. Vincent de Paul Church and its parish family through Saint Mary Villa Child Development Center. We love the people in this community; we are saddened by the extensive damage caused by last week’s storm.

North Nashville had challenges before the tornado; the storm damage has only exacerbated those challenges. This New York Times story – “A Tornado Decimated North Nashville. The Rebuilding May Destroy Its Soul.” – explains why North Nashville is so at risk.

Our hope is that no one is permanently relocated or made homeless because of the tornado. In the short term, this means providing housing and financial assistance so residents are not made homeless. We will update you as we formulate long-term plans for those needing help to remain in their homes.

We also treasure our neighbors in East Nashville, where our Loaves and Fishes program is housed at Holy Name Church’s Strobel Hall. Many of our neighbors also suffered devastating loss, and we are committed to helping them recover and rebuild. Our facility incurred slight damage and had no electricity for days. However, we improvised to provide sandwiches in the days after the tornado, and were able to restart our regular meal program yesterday. The program is also working with several area churches to provide food boxes from Second Harvest.

Thank You For Your Support

Thank you to everyone who donated to Catholic Charities since the tornado. We have raised more than $80,000 since the tornado tore through our region early on Tuesday, March 3. (Many donations are from outside of Tennessee. It is humbling and heart-warming to know that so many not directly impacted by March 3 are on our tornado relief team!) ~ These funds will be applied to providing case management assistance and counseling services to tornado survivors, as well as material assistance, when circumstances allow, for unmet needs. We learned during the recovery period for the May 2010 floods that these services are how we can best walk with survivors on the road to recovery.

Love, Goodwill, and Kindness

We have no doubt Nashville will recover from this natural disaster.

I’m reminded every day that love, goodwill, and kindness can heal those in need.

Fortunately, Nashville has all three in abundance.