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Featured in The Leaven—Catholic Charities: ‘We have never stopped serving’

Featured image: Joann Slavery, a volunteer for a Catholic Charities food pantry in Kansas City, Kansas, helps prepare the pantry before clients start to arrive. Volunteers at Catholic Charities have decreased as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened throughout the nation. LEAVEN PHOTO BY LORI WOOD HABIGER

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by Joe Bollig
[email protected]

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “I’m asked constantly,” said Lauren Solidum, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, “what is the Catholic Church doing in response to this other than shutting down Masses?”

Her answer is simple — yet challenging.

“We have never stopped serving,” she said.

“And we are the church,” she continued, “we are the hands and feet [of Christ]. That’s an incredible message for our Catholic community to hear.”

But it is true that the coronavirus pandemic has forced Catholic Charities to take a long, hard look at its operations. And it has had to prioritize the “big three” necessities for those they serve, while shutting down or adapting other services.

At the same time the faith-based agency is facing rising demand, it’s experiencing fewer donations and a dwindling volunteer base.

“Our priorities in this crisis are food, shelter and health care,” said Solidum.

One of the biggest concerns at Catholic Charities is that there will be an increase in demand and a decrease in donations and volunteers. LEAVEN PHOTO BY LORI WOOD HABIGER

Catholic Charities serves low-income residents in 21 counties in northeast Kansas. It has 240 employees, assisted by about 1,700 volunteers a month.

Starting March 18, all Catholic Charities locations except the seven Family Support Centers and the Hope Distribution Center in Wyandotte County closed for 15 days.

The two TurnStyles thrift stores in Overland Park are closed and some administrative personnel have been asked to work from home.

English as a Second Language classes, cooking classes, financial literacy education, tax preparation assistance, workforce development and higher education programs have ceased.

Some services are being provided over the phone.

“We are still doing case management,” said Denise Ogilvie, vice president of community engagement.

“Instead of doing that face-to-face,” she said, “if people need help with utilities or rent assistance or need to be re-housed, they can call the office and we do as much of that work as we can over the phone to comply with government requirements [for social distancing].

Continue reading at The Leaven


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