BY ROCHELLE SCHLORTT
Marian House Community Outreach (MHCO) has nearly doubled its services in the past year throughout the 10-County Diocese. The program provides necessities, such as food boxes, housewares, and clothing, to vulnerable populations that cannot access the on-site assistance at the Marian House. In 2015, 15,900 pounds of food were distributed to local food pantries and churches in addition to 25,042 pounds of food distributed to rural partners. Food, however, is not the only necessity in demand. MHCO also distributed 1,165 bags of clothing locally and 907 bags of clothing rurally, along with 172 coats and a myriad of items such as school supplies, kitchen wares, and hygiene products.
MHCO staff recognizes that their stronger effort to reach out to rural contacts has allowed for an increase in services. To date, they have established 13 local partners and 30 rural partners. Additionally, MHCO has worked closely with the Catholic Charities Community and Parish Engagement (CPE) staff to coordinate efforts between local and rural parishes throughout the diocese. The CPE team hopes to establish a “sister parish” program to connect stable parishes with parishes serving communities in need.
Thanks to the support of Catholic Charities, the Stratton Community Pantry has been able to expand from simply providing Thanksgiving assistance to offering food and other necessities year-round. “It really turned out to be one of the best things that we were connected with,” said Lynne Ware, a longtime volunteer at the Pantry. While a pantry exists in the nearby town of Burlington, Stratton residents in need could not easily make the 56-mile round trip to access services. Lynne notes that the growth of the panty in the past few years has inspired more local community involvement. In addition to the 20 backpacks full of school supplies provided by MHCO this year, the pantry was able to purchase new gym shoes for students in need with donations from local residents. Lynne hopes that donors recognize “how many mouths they’ve fed and, to a certain extent, how many lives they’ve changed.”
In Colorado Springs, Grace Be Unto You Church provides assistance to families and individuals on the southeast side of the city. The Church’s pantry is open on Wednesday afternoons and serves up to 500 individuals each month. During the 2015 Thanksgiving season, the Church found that they were unable to meet the high demand for holiday assistance when an anticipated donation did not come through. Thanks to the incredible gift from Safeway & Albertsons, MHCO was able to provide the Church with 200 turkeys and 136 sides. Pastor Bill notes that he has seen an increase in demand for services in recent years and acknowledges how valuable the support from MHCO is for his community, “It’s a tremendous help. Because of Catholic Charities, we’re now able to reach and help more low-income families in the community. It’s a blessing, a wonderful blessing.”
Rochelle Schlortt is the Chief Communications Officer for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.