Representatives of groups that received Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants celebrate with Archdiocese of Portland leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith and Matt Cato, right.
Representatives of groups that received Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants celebrate with Archdiocese of Portland leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith and Matt Cato, right.

“I didn’t have any idea of gardening, and Huerta told me everything about it, and now we grow our own organic food,” says Catalina Angeles. Angeles’ 7-year-old daughter has grown up gardening and is keen on eating fruits and vegetables.

The family is part of Huerta de la Familia, a Eugene community garden education cooperative that received a $7,500 grant this year from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, CCHD for short.

“We love working with CCHD because CCHD really values the empowerment aspect of our work and the life-changing experience it is to gain a new skill you can take with you anywhere you go,” says Marissa Zarate, a leader at Huerta de la Familia, which serves more than 75 households. 

 

The campaign has awarded grants to 13 Oregon organizations that fight the root causes of poverty. It’s the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Fueled by an annual parish collection near Thanksgiving, the campaign funds programs with solutions to local problems and strategies to improve local economic conditions. To qualify, organizations are vetted and must adhere to Catholic principles of life and human dignity.

Over the years, the campaign has distributed more than $6 million to organizations in the Archdiocese of Portland.

Those who won grants this year — including a Portland parish helping mobile home park residents, a job-training bicycle venture in Salem and a parent advocacy group in Medford — sent delegates to a Portland banquet July 13. They shared ideas and heard from Catholic leaders.

“We’ve had Republicans talk about the shrinking middle class and we’ve had Democrats talk about the shrinking middle class, and we’ve had next to no one talking about the poor,” said Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. With the help of a commission, he administers the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in western Oregon.

“Last time I checked, the Bible contained not a reference to the middle class,” said Cato, crediting the organizations for going where politicians fear to tread.

Cato says the campaign operates on the assumption that those who are affected by unjust structures in society know best how to make improvements. That’s why grant recipients must have low-income people in leadership.

“CCHD offers a hand up, not a handout,” said Cato.

Bishop Peter Smith lauded the organizations for setting policy based on the wisdom of people who are poor.

“So often solutions are decreed from above, but the solutions that have the greatest impact and are most successful and take into account the real needs of people come from folks in the midst of all of that,” the bishop said.

“CCHD has been a crucial partner for us,” says Diane Linn, executive director of Proud Ground, which holds land in trust to provide low-cost houses to the working poor.

Lynn Meyer, of Community Lending Works in Springfield, says the grant his organization received will finance small businesses and consumers, saving them from the predatory lending market.

“The programs they support and where the money goes are for people in the grassroots making a difference every day,” says Maura White, director of the Mother and Child Education Center and a consultant on Catholic peace and justice work. “People in the pew can say, ‘Wow I helped support that. I am making a difference here.’”