by Jan Lewis
Summer has always been a magical time. The long lazy days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are filled with family vacations, picnics, block parties, baseball games and county fairs.
But for the staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, there are no lazy days, because poverty and need never take a vacation.
The first week in June brought us a new director for St. Benedict’s Special Children’s Center in Kansas City, Kan. Kasie Garlington and her staff spent the summer overhauling the classrooms, the equipment and the curriculum to provide the young children in our care with the best possible early learning experiences.
June also brought us a new director of Refugee and Migrant Services. James Cianciaruso came on board just in time to help the staff and volunteers work through one of our largest influxes of refugees in many years.
The summer months saw more than 130 people, fleeing persecution in their homelands, come to our community seeking asylum and a new life.
In early July, the Topeka staff packed up its boxes and moved down the street to a larger and more efficient facility. The new offices at 234 Kansas Blvd., on the campus of Let’s Help, Inc., are now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide space for expansion of our many Topeka services, which include hospice, counseling, pregnancy counseling and adoption, Mother-toMother mentoring, foster care, Friendly Visitors, and more.
In August, Catholic Charities added a new ministry to our services in Johnson and Wyandotte counties when we hired a shelter coordinator to provide leadership to the Shalom House, the only men’s homeless shelter in the two counties. James Davidson is spending his time getting to know the men, their stories and their needs, as we assess what future steps we will take in order to provide compassionate services to the homeless in our communities.
The sagging economy brought many people to our doors this summer seeking assistance with food and shelter. Our food pantries saw demand increase more than 15 percent from last year, and the number of people requiring assistance with rent and mortgage payments was up nearly 13 percent. For many, this was the first time in their lives that they had had to ask for help.
In response to the increased demand, we have opened an expanded family support center and food pantry just a few doors down from our TurnStyles Thrift Store in Overland Park. The new center at 9806 W. 87th St. opened on Sept. 8.
The days have been long, but at the end of each day we take comfort in knowing that we have made a difference in someone’s life.