May 26, 2023

St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities ‘walks alongside’ people in need

This photo of Jimmy Richardson, who receives assistance from the Supported Living Program of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany, was shown on a large screen as he spoke via video at the organization’s annual fundraiser gala on April 20. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

This photo of Jimmy Richardson, who receives assistance from the Supported Living Program of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany, was shown on a large screen as he spoke via video at the organization’s annual fundraiser gala on April 20. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

LOUISVILLE—For nearly 45 years, St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities (SECC) in New Albany has been giving hope and changing lives. The positive impact of the organization was celebrated at its annual Giving Hope-Changing Lives fundraiser gala on April 20 in Louisville, Ky.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was on hand to celebrate.

“So often the great works of the [St. Elizabeth] Catholic Charities—the lives it touches, the effects it has on individuals, on families, on the community beyond what we’ll ever be able to measure—so often goes unnoticed,” he said.

“But it’s not lost in the eyes of the Church, not lost on the people whose lives you touch. You are such great ambassadors, such great witnesses, such great disciples of Jesus Christ.

“And so, whether you’re a staffer, a volunteer, a benefactor or just someone associated with someone else who is connected, you make a difference.”

The reality of that difference was shared through the testimony of three people for whom St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities made a life-changing impact.

‘Having faith that people can change’

Take Jessica Schaap, who with her husband Ben struggled with infertility.

“When that door closed almost permanently, we were left with empty arms and broken hearts,” she shared.

They heard about Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana, a service of SECC. Adoption Bridges is the only nonprofit, licensed adoption agency to provide adoption services in both Kentucky and Indiana.

The couple met with a staff member, “and it just felt right,” said Schaap. “We knew this smaller, local agency was the one for us.”

Twice the couple bore the pain of a birth mother they were matched with changing her mind and keeping her baby.

Both times were challenging. But each was “made so much easier by the exceptional care of our agency,” Schaap said. “We felt seen, heard, understood and loved in a very difficult time.”

But the couple’s journey with Adoption Bridges brought them the joy of first a son and then a daughter.

“Having the support of a wonderful, ethical, caring agency who walks alongside you during such a challenging process is priceless.”

Then there’s Jimmy Richardson, one of 17 people assisted between July 2021 through June 2022 by SECC’s Supported Living Program. The service helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Floyd and Clark counties live independent lives.

Richardson told his story via video, with photo after photo of a smiling, joyful man.

He spoke of help he’s received cleaning his home, making grocery lists, going to the store, and social outings to museums, picnics and holiday dinners.

“They help me meet benchmarks, help me keep in line,” he said. “If I have a problem, I can come to them and they can direct me which way to go.”

SECC also offers “four housing programs that can house an average of 65 women and children at any given time,” said agency director Mark Casper. “St. Elizabeth has literally helped thousands of women over the years get back on their feet.”

One of those women, Andrea Gresham, shared her story at the gala.

“It was just four years ago I was homeless, full of despair and into drugs, incapable of being a mother and considered by society as being just another hopeless cause,” she said.

She found faith in God while incarcerated and “realized that my life was worth fighting for.”

After being released from jail, Gresham entered a recovery program called Breakaway. Upon completion, she was “ready to take the next step,” with “goals of getting my children back full time, saving money and moving forward with my life.

“It was then I was connected to St. Elizabeth. … I was told I was the first person to enter into the Affordable

Supportive Housing [ASH] program through a partnership St. Elizabeth had with Breakaway.”

Founded in 2012, the ASH program helps families facing homelessness by providing rent on a sliding scale fee, as well as access to case managers, mental health therapists and other resources SECC offers.

Gresham and her children moved into their ASH unit in 2021.

“The case managers helped me set goals,” she said. “They showed me how to rebuild my credit, and there were so much more resources and help that I received—food from the pantry and assistance with budgeting.”

She was soon able to buy a car. A year later she was pre-approved for a mortgage to buy a home. She and her children moved into their new home in June of 2022.

“I’m so grateful for St. Elizabeth,” she said. “You’ve become family to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having faith that people can change.”

Meeting ‘the changing needs of our community’

Schaap, Richardson and Gresham are just three of the hundreds helped by SECC between July 2021 and June 2022.

Their residential housing programs served 58 women and 91 children, and helped 253 women facing homelessness.

Among Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana’s accomplishments, the agency helped 161 pregnant mothers and provided nearly 600 various professional adoption services.

SECC counselors in five local schools served 1,233 students, as well as provided community training sessions and parental support.

Finally, Marie’s Community Distribution Program encountered more than 700 family visits, up more than 55% from the prior year, with the number of new families served increasing more than 36%. Overall, the diapers, baby food, formula, clothing, car seats, baby beds, appliances and furniture distributed totaled nearly $100,000.

During the gala, volunteers were commended for providing almost 4,000 hours of service. Two of them—SECC Advisory Council member Fran Brown and retired Father Wilfred “Sonny” Day—were honored with the agency’s Spirit of Hope Award. (See the article in the March 17 issue of The Criterion at

“The city is very fortunate to have St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities here,” said New Albany mayor Jeff Gahan in an interview with The Criterion. “They are eager to serve. As mayor, I’m very thankful that they’re in our city, and very fortunate. They reach out to people in a way that makes us all proud.”

With growing needs, increasing costs and, “like other organizations, difficulty in finding staff,” the last fiscal year “was not without its challenges,” said Casper.

“But while it’s been a tough year, let me assure you—our staff, volunteers and all of our stakeholders have responded to these challenges every day. They meet the changing needs of our community while maintaining our core offerings.

“We are what this community makes it possible for us to be, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

(For more information on St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities or to donate, go to

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