Connections multiply, reaching out in unexpected directions, when neighbors help neighbors. And it’s not uncommon to find Catholic Charities at the center of this kind of web of outreach and hope.
Nancy Molina, a volunteer with Catholic Charities who is a St. Henry, Gresham, parishioner, has played a role in building those connections through a three-way partnership between Catholic Charities, the Refugee and Immigrant Hospitality Organization and her parish.
“Catholic Charities have become a wonderful partner in helping refugees,” she says.
Those connections mean that when a Catholic Charities caseworker calls Molina on behalf of refugee and immigrant families who are setting up a household, Molina is able to take them shopping at her organization’s donation center — located at the property of yet another partner, the Gresham United Methodist Church.
In other instances, a Catholic Charities caseworker might call Molina for a specific piece of furniture — a couple of twin beds for example.
“Catholic Charities sets up apartments for them, but I love it when the families come in and actually pick things out that catch their eye, things that they choose,” says Molina.
St. Henry parishioners and others in the community have provided the families with those necessities and homey touches, filling the Gresham donation center with needed goods.
“It’s a web of goodness that gets very grassroots,” says Molina. “There’s a lot of people who want to help refugees and don’t know where to start. This is a way”
Across town at Holy Trinity in Beaverton, parishioners and staff help refugees in a unique arrangement with Catholic Charities. The parish owns a large house, known as the ministry house, a couple blocks from the church. Half of its rooms are used to house refugee families when they first arrive in the Portland area. Parish volunteers meet families at the airport and bring them back to Beaverton. The refugees stay in the house until they have an apartment of their own, usually a couple weeks. Every day, volunteers check in with the family, taking them shopping, to doctors’ appointments, to fill out paperwork.
Al Schmitt, director of community outreach at Holy Trinity, is worried about what will happen to the thousands of imperiled refugees who have been turned away with the three-month ban on refugee entry. The ministry house will be empty soon, for the first time since it opened its doors to refugees.
Still, there will be plenty for the parish to do to help its neighbors, some of that in conjunction with Catholic Charities.
“We have to continue to do what we can, where we can,” says Schmitt. “If we can help even one family, we’re having an impact.”
Schmitt is looking forward to what he calls “the next big thing”: Catholic Charities will soon send out a trainer to teach parish volunteers who will then help neighbors — fellow parishioners and beyond — budget more carefully.