December 4, 2015

St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities opens new resource distribution center

Staff, volunteers and supporters smile as the ribbon is cut during St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Charities’ dedication of its new building to house Marie’s Ministry, the agency’s resource distribution center in New Albany. (Submitted photo by Patricia Happel Cornwell)

Staff, volunteers and supporters smile as the ribbon is cut during St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Charities’ dedication of its new building to house Marie’s Ministry, the agency’s resource distribution center in New Albany. (Submitted photo by Patricia Happel Cornwell)

By Patricia Happel Cornwell (Special to The Criterion)

NEW ALBANY—Rain could not dampen spirits on Nov. 16 when 45 staff, volunteers and supporters of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities (SECC) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new location for their Marie’s Ministry resource distribution center at 305 E. Seventh St. in New Albany.

St. Elizabeth’s, which opened in 1989 as a crisis pregnancy center, merged with Catholic Charities in 2004 to form a non-profit organization that serves the various physical, emotional and spiritual needs of clients in southern Indiana and the metro Louisville area.

Marie’s Ministry was originally established at Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville, but was later moved to the basement of the SECC maternity home in New Albany. The new building on Seventh Street will provide more than 2,000 square feet of additional space for the service.

In 2014, Marie’s Ministry helped 560 families with donations of diapers, baby wipes, formula and baby food valued at more than $30,000. The new space is expected to allow the center to double the number of families it assists.

The late Marie Robertson wanted a daughter for many years, and she vowed that if God gave her one, she would make it her mission to help the less fortunate. When a baby girl was placed with her and her husband, she made good on her promise, founding Marie’s Ministry and spending the rest of her life helping those in need. She died on Christmas Day, 2011.

Phil Kruer, SECC facilities committee chair, said the occasion marked developments in three areas: the expanded area for Marie’s Ministry, the opening of a seventh affordable supportive housing unit on East Market Street, and renovation and exterior painting of the former Holy Trinity Parish rectory, now St. Elizabeth’s social services hub.

Wendy Chesser, CEO of One Southern Indiana, the Chamber of Commerce economic development organization serving Clark and Floyd counties, lauded SECC’s efforts to “meet the needs of those in the community, beyond jobs.”

Mark Casper, SECC director, said Marie’s Ministry originally donated goods only to St. Elizabeth’s “resident moms and babies,” but during the 2008 recession, the need became greater. “Now 75 percent of what we give away goes to the community,” he said. The service is run entirely by volunteers, mostly retirees.

“With 10 times the space as before,” Casper said, “we can now take donated appliances and furniture.” It is estimated that Marie’s Ministry gives a total of $200,000 to $250,000 worth of goods to needy families each year.

Leslea Cronin, newly elected president of the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, said, “Marie’s Ministry bridges the gap for our families.”

The small crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was greeted by David Siler, director of the secretariat for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which contributed the first $50,000 to move the distribution program to the new facility.

“I think the rain is Marie crying for joy in heaven that her work is being continued,” he said. As an unhappy baby cried throughout his remarks, Siler said, ‘It’s fine that the baby’s crying because this place is all about babies.”

Holy water mingled with raindrops as Msgr. William F. Stumpf, vicar general, blessed the exterior of the new building before the official ribbon-cutting. Praying for staff, volunteers, residents and families, he asked, “Lord, hold them all gently in your hand.”

Marie’s Ministry gives free baby food, diapers and formula any day of the week to families who provide a form of identification and proof they have one or more children. Once a month, they also distribute blankets, baby and maternity clothing, and larger items such as car seats and baby beds to those in need.

SECC’s other services include a residential maternity program, transitional housing for mothers and children, and affordable supportive housing for families facing homelessness.

The agency also provides adoption services, supported living for developmentally-delayed adults, court-ordered, supervised visitation between parents and children, and outreach counseling to individuals or families on a sliding fee scale or through insurance.

Information about SECC services may be obtained by contacting them at 812-949-7305 or by visiting www.stecharities.org.
 

(Patricia Happel Cornwell is a freelance writer and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon.)

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