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Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities agencies throughout the U.S. provide numerous services.

Kids often get involved in Catholic Charities projects through their schools. [© Jupter Images, 2009]
© Jupter Images, 2009
Kids often get involved in Catholic Charities projects through their schools.

Catholic Charities is a group of agencies, branches and affiliates across the United States intended to provide assistance and create hope for poor and underprivileged families and individuals. Catholic Charities believes that all persons have the right to lead a dignified life regardless of religious, economic or social background, and the organization advocates for these basic rights.

Today there are more than 1,700 Catholic Charities agencies and institutions in cities across the United States that provide social services to more than 7.8 million people of different faiths every year.

Catholic Charities National Network

Catholic Charities USA  is a national network that was established in 1910 to promote the formation of Catholic Charities agencies at the local level, spread the spirit of professional social work and unite those working in charitable ministries. Today, Catholic Charities USA provides leadership, vision, networking opportunities, training and financial support to local organizations.

Key Issues

Catholic Charities believes in the inherent dignity of all human beings, and the organization works to make sure that public policy reflects this belief. Catholic Charities chapters work with federal and local government agencies to advocate for public policy support in the following areas:

Family economic security: More than 37 million Americans live below the federal poverty line but all families have the right to provide sufficiently for themselves.
Health care: considered a basic human right, even as some 47 million people lack access to adequate health care and low-income workers and minorities are disproportionately uninsured.
Housing: Homes provide the foundation for a community and are necessary for raising children, so affordable housing for everyone, including the homeless, should be a key goal.
Hunger: 12.6 million Americans suffer from food insecurity despite abundant national resources.
Special populations: includes the needs of immigrants, refugees, juveniles, prisoner re-entry programs, senior citizens, farm workers and human trafficking.
A fair and just federal budget: contributes to the common good.

Catholic Charities believes that government programs should focus their attention on those who need it the most. Government programs that support those in need include:

• Child welfare programs for the poor
• State Children's Health Insurance Program for children lacking health insurance
• HUD Housing Counseling Program to provide affordable homes
• Food Stamp Program to eliminate hunger

Services

Catholic Charities provides services that help people in their daily lives. Adults struggling to support their families can find training through adult education programs. Families and individuals struggling with substance abuse issues can receive counseling. Elderly adults who live alone can receive daily assistance and visitation. The homeless, individuals struggling with HIV/AIDS and families affected by domestic violence can also receive help from Catholic Charities agencies around the country.

Child development and adolescence is a central focus and particular concern for Catholic Charities. For example, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston operates a teen center in the heart of the city. The center is a haven for teens who want to avoid violence in their neighborhoods and spend their time productively. After school, teens do homework, play educational games, try their hand at sports, engage in cultural activities and attend college prep workshops. Teens also participate in focus groups that address issues that affect adolescents, such as drugs and alcohol, gangs, family conflict and sexual activity.

Other services provided by Catholic Charities agencies include:

• Adoption
• Maternity/pregnancy
• Nutrition assistance
• Treatment of abused or neglected children and families
• Education
• Emergency assistance
• Health care
• Immigration/naturalization
• Legal assistance
• Refugee resettlement
• Veterans services

Volunteering and Donations

Volunteers are welcomed by local agencies. Volunteers are needed to organize food drives, screen clients for food stamps and assist at health fairs. Volunteers are put to work in a number of capacities helping to organize clothing rooms or food pantries, providing meals to young moms or reading to young children. Volunteers might mentor refugee families, work in adult literacy programs or visit with seniors at nursing homes. Volunteers also deliver food packages and meals to seniors, repair household items for grandparents raising grandchildren and provide childcare assistance to homeless families, in addition to many other services.

A great way to start volunteering is to check local agencies' Web sites for opportunities. The Catholic Charities USA Web site provides a local agency directory that volunteers can use to locate an agency near their home. Volunteers are required to submit an application, which is available online, before they are selected for volunteer opportunities.

Catholic Charities also accepts financial donations in the form of cash, matching employer gifts, electronic stock transfers, monthly bank account debits, memorial gifts and planned philanthropy. Donors can specify how they want their money distributed. They can choose between general support, general disaster or the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America.

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