New Catholic Charities initiative ‘does what it says it does,’ says client
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If you’ve finished your Christmas cards — or even if you still have some left to do — you might consider adding another card to your to-do list.
This one isn’t a holiday card; it’s more to celebrate and boost someone’s spirits all year.
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas invites you to send a message of hope to one of the 85,000 people it helps during the year.
The messages are part of a campaign the agency launched this fall called “Give. Hope.”
The “Give” part of the campaign reminds people there are many ways to give to others, explained Rachel Hodgson, manager of integrated marketing with the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas.
Financial donations are always appreciated, but giving goes far beyond that. Donations of food and toiletries help stock Catholic Charities’ pantries for families in need.
“People can give time by volunteering with Catholic Charities,” said Hodgson.
They can give excess clothing or furniture to the TurnStyles Thrift Store.
And there is something else anyone can give, and that’s where the “Hope” part of the campaign comes in.
It doesn’t cost a thing. All it takes is a message from the heart and a few minutes of your time.
There are several ways to do it. You can request actual cards from Catholic Charities and write your messages directly on them. You can tweet your message on Twitter (use the phrase #give hope) or post your message via Facebook at: www.facebook.com/CCNEK.
You can also visit the Catholic Charities website at: www.catholiccharitiesks.org.
Volunteers are taking the online messages and writing them on cards that clients will be able to keep.
The hope is that the thousands of clients — who are people of all ages, and from many different backgrounds and denominations — will keep these cards and continue to draw hope from them.
When someone receives a bag of groceries, the items in the bag might last three or four days. A card that someone can keep and display will last far longer than that, said Hodgson.
The message doesn’t have to be long to make a big impact. It just means a lot to people “to know that someone out there is praying for them or caring for them,” said Hodgson.
Members of the England family — a family of seven in Overland Park — treasure the words on the card they received.
They were the first to get a Hope card.
The card tells them there is hope for them and someone is praying for them, and it offers words of encouragement, said Jennifer England.
She and her husband Thomas England were living in Biloxi, Miss., with their five children when Hurricane Katrina hit.
They were the average family, doing all right and not needing assistance, said Jennifer. Thomas had his own business; he was in trucking.
When the hurricane hit, they suffered their share of damage and disruption. The storm didn’t destroy their home but, with the loans they relied on for repairs, they fell behind on their mortgage and lost their house to foreclosure.
Since Thomas had some opportunities back in the Kansas City area, where he lived as a child, the family moved up here.
There have been ups and downs since they arrived. The economy hasn’t been good. The motor blew on a new truck not long after Thomas got it.
Working hard to get on their feet, they turned to Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas for assistance.
The help they found there came in many forms, from food pantry items to financial assistance to a hand in finding their home.
It’s a beautiful house, said Jennifer, and it is home to her and Thomas, 14-year-old Dejá, 13-year-old Taliyah, 12-year-old Thomas England V, 10-yearold Jeremiah and 8-year-old Jada.
Jennifer loves the way the food pantry works. They still sometimes turn to it when times are tough. There are always some treats in the bags for the kids.
The tough times also strained them emotionally and, through Catholic Charities, the couple went through marriage counseling. They also got some financial counseling.
“Catholic Charities has supported us every step of the way,” said Jennifer. “Our savings are building up. It’s been a tremendous blessing and help for us.”
Jennifer thought at first about putting the card she received on some type of plaque to display, but so far, she has kept it in the car as a constant source of support when she needs to draw strength.
“It literally gives you the inspiration and hope you need, to know you have a community — and people in that community — who care enough to pray for you,” she said.
There are times you feel as if no one understands what you’re going through, and that’s especially tough as parents, she added. But having this message on paper makes the burden lighter.
It’s one thing to say it, she said, but still another to take the time to write it down for someone.
“It does what it says it does,” she said of the “Give. Hope.” campaign. “It gives you hope.”
Hope is spreading
With schools, Scout troops and parishes already getting involved, Catholic Charities has collected several hundred messages. It hopes that will multiply into the thousands. Catholic Charities works with families that need a few days’ supplies in an emergency situation to help make ends meet, refugees who are building new lives here and children at the St. Benedict Early Education Center in Kansas City, Kan., just to name a few.
The organization reaches out to those who are experiencing poverty of mind, body and spirit, and works to give them help, hospitality and hope.
Hope messages range from a few paragraphs to a sentence or two to drawings by children — who are welcome to participate.
“A setback is an opportunity for a comeback,” wrote one person. “Where there is a will, there is a way, and God has a say. Many blessings to you.”
“Keep the faith!” reads another. “God is good!”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann filled out a Hope card. His reads:
“I pray that Catholic Charities will help you know you are loved and that you will find help for your needs.”