Speakers uttered the word “resilience” 28 times March 16 during the annual Celebration of Hope dinner benefitting the work of Catholic Charities of Oregon. The theme was clear: if the church forms relationships with people having a hard time in life, that helps them bounce back from difficulties in a way that lasts.

“Love is what ignites and fuels resilience,” said Deacon Richard Birkel, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon. “There are no rugged individuals. We all exist in a web of relationships.”

The hundreds of donors gathered at the Oregon Convention Center responded well to the idea, supporting Catholic Charities in resilience-building with almost $850,000. The funds will back housing, financial education, immigration advocacy, pregnancy support and counseling. Catholic Charities of Oregon works with about 20,000 people per year.

“No matter what brings someone through the doors at Catholic Charities, someone treats them with care,” said Colleen Gardner, who with Pedro Garcia was co-chair of the dinner.

An emotional highlight of the evening was the appearance of Millet, a mother of three girls who prefers not to use her last name. She and her children escaped an abusive man and had to start from square one. Catholic Charities assisted her as she applied for a work permit, landed a job and became a U.S. citizen. Now, Millet owns a small business and has sent a daughter to college.

“To have Catholic Charities on our side, it made my dreams possible,” Millet told the crowd shortly before she received a standing ovation. “You walk beside us as we heal and help us find safety and security.”

Donations came in auction paddle board style, with longtime philanthropists Al and Sue Corrado topping all givers with a $20,000 pledge.

The funds will come in handy as Catholic Charities is continuing to take on timely projects. As federal funding for immigration support has dropped, Catholic Charities has made up the difference. Now the agency is teaming up with Providence Health and Services and the Archdiocese of Portland to reduce homelessness in the city by 20 percent by offering housing, case management and health care.

Archbishop Alexander Sample told the crowd that he looks to Catholic Charities to “be the face of Christ to all of those who come to us in need.”