Charities makes way for family-friendly service opportunities

by Steve Buckner
Special to The Leaven

OVERLAND PARK — Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas had a pleasant problem on its hands: The organization based here was constantly being called by families — and schools and even the archdiocese — with requests for ways a family could volunteer.

The problem, as explained by Denise Ogilvie, vice president of outreach and grants management for Catholic Charities, was “we weren’t really set up for families.”

Until now.

This past summer, Ogilvie and her colleagues, Meg McLaughlin and Camille Pickhinke, developed a resource guide, called “Family Services Booklet,” to assist families seeking volunteering opportunities. The booklet is posted on the website of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. It has been made available as well to Catholic schools and religious education programs in the archdiocese.

The booklet is divided into six categories. One category, “Feeding the Hungry,” offers four different ways for volunteers to help their fellow brothers and sisters. Another category, called “Clothe the Naked,” features two activities.

The categories and activities are as follows:

Feed the Hungry

  • Catholic Charities’ food pantries and the Hope Distribution Center
  • Summer Food
  • New Roots for Refugees
  • St. Rita’s (pilot program)

Welcome the Stranger

  • Refugee and Immigration Services

Clothe the Naked

  • TurnStyles Thrift Store
  • Resource bus, Foster Grandparent Program and refugee children

Shelter the Homeless

  • Shalom House

Care for the Sick and Lonely

  • In-home support and Friendly Visitors

Instruct

  • Collect gently used or new books for children served by Catholic Charities and create a Hope Bookmark

Each activity contains the following elements: purpose, prayer before you begin, activity instructions, ways to expand this project and a point of reflection. Age-appropriate levels are also noted. For example, children need to be 10 or older if their parents want them to volunteer at TurnStyles.

“We looked at the things that we have at Catholic Charities, and tried to design something where families could start early — when their children were younger — [to] do something at home or donate to Catholic Charities,” Ogilvie said.

When the kids reach middle school age, she continued, “they could volunteer here at Catholic Charities.

“We’re just trying to help families find a way to be able to live their Gospel- based faith and serve their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Ogilvie added that she hoped that the booklet could serve as a template, so it can be added on to as new projects come up.

Over the summer, she said, Catholic Charities sponsored a food program in which volunteers assembled meals for parents who brought their children to one of the Summer Food sites. Catholic Charities provides summer meals to children at 30 different sites across the 21 counties of northeast Kansas.

“That’s one opportunity [where] families are able to volunteer,” Ogilvie said. “This increased our desire to give families more opportunities.”

“It is really important to us,” she added. “We at Catholic Charities think that not only are we here to serve, but we believe part of our job is to provide opportunities for others to be Christ to someone.

And, families are so very vital to that service.”

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