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Catholic Charities Expanding Presence

By Phil Anderson

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas is expanding its presence throughout the 21 counties it covers, thanks in part to a retro-fitted 11-passenger minibus donated by a Dallas-based natural gas company.

Representatives from Atmos Energy were in Topeka on Thursday to hand over the bus keys to Catholic Charities officials, who say the vehicle will help them deliver services to the most needy residents of northeast Kansas.

Catholic Charities, which for years has provided social services through its Topeka office, located at 234 S. Kansas Ave., will use the mobile assistance resource bus a few days per month to provide food, utility and rental assistance to eligible individuals and families.

Catholic Charities case managers also will be able to make referrals to other social service agencies in the area.

Initially, the mobile assistance resource bus will target Shawnee, Jackson and Jefferson counties.

“We’re trying to get more of our services to people in the Topeka area,” said Kim Carlson, manager of integrated marketing for Catholic Charities. “If they can’t afford to pay their rent, they certainly can’t afford to put gas in their vehicle and drive to Topeka. So we’re going to them.”

Catholic Charities receives most of its funding from private donations, but it also receives money from state and federal grants.

The mobile assistance resource bus that will be used in the Topeka area has been painted gray and is emblazoned on its sides and back with the Catholic Charities logo.

The vehicle also is equipped with wi-fi capabilities, enabling case managers to use laptop computers to track clients applying for services, including determining who is eligible for assistance.

The vehicle, which is equipped with a desk and chairs and is handicapped accessible, will make regularly scheduled stops in neighborhoods and towns in the Topeka area, starting as early as next week.

People requesting services will be able to sit inside the minibus, which will be air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter.

The Ford minibus was driven 10 hours Wednesday to Topeka from Amarillo, Texas. It arrived around midnight in the capital city.

Atmos Energy, which donated the minibus, has had a long-standing partnership with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas in helping provide natural gas to low-income customers.

Topeka will receive the third retro-fitted mobile assistance resource bus from Atmos Energy, with the other two already in use in Texas.

Daniel P. Alderson, director of energy assistance for Atmos Energy, said the idea to transform the vehicles into mobile assistance resource buses occurred to one of his colleagues on a Southwest Airlines flight. Initial plans were drawn up on a cocktail napkin, he said.

The minibuses were purchased from a company that provided rides for older adults and people with disabilities through the Texas Department of Transportation.

Alderson said the minibus was “very versatile,” and that Catholic Charities will be able to provide any of the services that it offers from its “brick-and-mortar” location in downtown Topeka.

James R. Schmank, of Topeka, who serves on the Catholic Charities board, said word already is getting out about the mobile service vehicle’s visits to area communities.

Schmank said there was “an incredible amount of need” in the Topeka area, and that the mobile service vehicle will help Catholic Charities deliver services to people in an efficient fashion.

Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or [email protected].
Follow Phil on Twitter @@Philreports. Read Phil’s blog.

Read the article on the Topeka Capital-Journal website

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