October 26, 2012

Appeal helps Catholic Charities support people in need

Volunteers in Tell City prepare the weekly dinner they serve to people in need at “Table of Blessings,” a program of Catholic Charities Tell City that is supported by the “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope.” (Submitted photo)

Volunteers in Tell City prepare the weekly dinner they serve to people in need at “Table of Blessings,” a program of Catholic Charities Tell City that is supported by the “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope.” (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

When the end of the month comes and her family’s food stamps are running thin, Judy Marcum appreciates being able to go with her husband and their five young children to “Table of Blessings.”

Through the outreach ministry, Catholic Charities Tell City offers a hot, home-cooked meal one evening a week to people in need in southwestern Indiana.

“It helps a lot,” Marcum said. “It’s really nice that they started this program because Perry County is such a poor community. There aren’t very many resources here.

“It’s just a place where you can go in and feel like you’re welcome, and just get in line and get your tray,” she said. “Everyone there is so friendly. There is always plenty of food to go around.”

One of the volunteers who serve those in need is Cindy Ehrlich, a member of St. Paul Parish in Tell City.

Although she has assisted in the program since it started in 2010, Ehrlich feels closer to the people she serves since the job she held for 35 years was recently eliminated.

“Anyone of us could be in that same situation,” Ehrlich said. “[Volunteering] has just been a blessing. It’s been so wonderful to see the faces every week that come back, and to see the people meet and talking and socializing with each other. You may be doing this to help other people, but you get so much out of it yourself.”

Joan Hess, agency director of Catholic Charities Tell City, sees people like Ehrlich volunteering, and Marcum and her family receiving a hot meal, and appreciates that Catholics across central and southern Indiana make “Table of Blessings” possible through their participation in the “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope.”

“I don’t know what we’d do without it,” Hess said. “We wouldn’t be able to have the impact that we do have if it wasn’t for the support of everybody that contributes to the appeal. It just lets us reach out farther and help each person more.”

Having “Table of Blessings” is important for those in need in Perry County, one of the poorest counties in the state, because rural poverty poses difficult challenges, said David Siler, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.

“There aren’t as many resources,” he said. “There aren’t as many opportunities for jobs. So when someone loses a job and their family has lived there for generations and they want to stay there, the opportunities are really limited.”

In his position, Siler oversees programs that serve people in need in a variety of contexts—urban areas, large and small towns, and rural settings.

There are Catholic Charities programs helping those in need in a variety of ways in Tell City, New Albany, Bloomington, Terre Haute and Indianapolis.

And the number of people served through these programs has been growing dramatically in recent years. From fiscal year 2010-11 to fiscal year 2011-12, the number of people served grew from around 163,000 to nearly 190,000.

“Each year, over the past several years since the economy has really struggled, we’ve been seeing enormous increases,” Siler said. “And we’re seeing a whole new population—folks that haven’t had to come for services before.”

That is why he appreciates the way that Catholics from across the 39 counties of the archdiocese support Catholic Charities through “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope.”

“We can do what we do because people step up and … share in that ministry,” Siler said. “That’s what makes us Catholic. That’s what’s really profound about being Catholic.”

That support helps Siler persevere in reaching out to those in need even though he knows that “the need is always going to exceed our ability to respond.

“But the blessing is that we are able to respond,” Siler said. “We help this person or that person. And it makes a huge difference in somebody’s life.”

(For more information about “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope,” log on to www.archindy.org/uca.)

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