October 9, 2009

Workshop offers insight for responding to requests for assistance at parishes

By Mike Krokos

Carol Goins was looking for answers.

As finance manager at Holy Family Parish in New Albany, Goins has seen firsthand how people come to the parish needing help. She and other members of the staff are not always sure how to handle their requests.

They are not alone.

On Oct. 1, a room full of people attended a workshop on responding to requests for assistance at parishes during a kickoff conference for a yearlong social ministry renewal in the archdiocese that is known as SHINE—“Spreading Hope in Neighborhoods Everywhere.”

Led by Stefanie Anderson, communications and marketing coordinator for the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries, and Bill Bickel, director of crisis relief and shelter for Catholic Charities Indianapolis, the session offered an overview of the human services community, shared the benefits of a 211 referral service and introduced a SHINE knowledge base.

Education plus collaboration equals empowerment, both Anderson and Bickel repeated several times during the workshop.

“So much of what we do is community-based,” Bickel said, adding that a number of parishes have well-established social ministries.

Following the lead offered by Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, in his keynote address, Anderson and Bickel encouraged parish leaders to assess the social ministry needs, wants and capacity of their parish. They noted that each community is different.

“We’re all in this room because we care about our neighbor,” Bickel said.

Our outreach tells people who our Church is, who our parish is and who our community is, Bickel added.

Bickel and Anderson offered several resources for responding to assistance requests at parishes:

  • In the greater Indianapolis area, people can log on to www.connect2help.org, a service that lists many of the area’s charitable organizations, and the services that they offer.
    • Connect2Help™, according to its Web site, makes it easier for people to find help or give help.
    • People can call 211 or 317-926-4357, 24 hours a day. The service offered is free and confidential.
  • Depending on where you live, there are community organizations that parishes can turn to for help, Anderson noted.
    • They might include a community on aging, community action agency, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (better known as the WIC program), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, county health departments, mental health centers, day or night shelters, domestic violence/safe places or the local United Way chapter, to name a few.
  • A SHINE knowledge base, or Catholic 211-type feature, has been created, Anderson said, and is now available online for parishes at www.spreadinghopeeverywhere.com.
    • Through a partnership with Connect2Help, the archdiocese has created a comprehensive listing of social ministries within the archdiocese. This organization and similar referral networks exist across the state. People are asked to contact the agency or local service organization that serves their county or simply dial 2-1-1 to connect directly with these professionals.
    • The new service will also share what outreach the parishes are offering that might be helpful for other parishes to learn about and consider.

“What is ‘Parish A’ doing that we want to do?” Anderson asked in discussing the newly created resource.

“We’ve got to open up the communications channel.

“Catholic churches are often a resource for people,” she said. “Go to this Web site and get what you need.”

For Goins, the workshop addressed many of her concerns, including the ongoing challenge of helping people who come to the parish in search of rent money, food, medical assistance and shelter.

“We have lots of people who come to the door needing help, and we just need guidance on how to handle that,” she said.

“I think they had very good input,” she said of the workshop. “I made lots of notes and got lots of ideas I had never thought about.”

There is a great need to network resources in the New Albany area, she added.

“Up here in Indianapolis, it sounds like they’ve got it together,” Goins said. “We need to jump on board with that idea. I may even look across the river at [the Archdiocese of] Louisville.”

Goins added that she plans to use the new SHINE data base at Holy Family Parish to help in the future.

“I think it’s great.” †

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