By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Five Kansas City area agencies that work to empower the poor and improve their lives are recipients of grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. A dinner honoring the agencies was held July 18 in the Cardinal Baum Room of the Catholic Center.
The agencies receiving national CCHD grants were Kansas City Urban Youth Center and Holy Rosary Credit Union. Local CCHD grants were awarded to St. Therese Little Flower Parish, Bishop Sullivan Center, and the Migrant Farmworkers Project.
The U.S. Bishops established the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in 1970, mandating it to fund projects and agencies that work to stop the root causes of poverty. Over the past 41 years, the CCHD has funded job and economic development, health and safety, education and community building on both national and local levels.
The money awarded to CCHD grant recipients comes from the annual CCHD collection taken up in November. According to Jude Huntz, Director of the Office of Human Rights, last year the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph raised close to $50,000. Bishop Robert W. Finn has said that the annual second collection for CCHD is the second largest of the external collections in the diocese, second only to Catholic Relief Services. The diocese keeps 25 percent of the funds collected, which goes toward locally funded groups, while the remaining 75 percent goes toward groups or projects supporting anti-poverty initiatives across the country. This year’s local grant awards totaled $15,000 while $85,000 was awarded through the national office.
This year, an additional $1,000 was made available to CCHD through the Susi Sinton Endowment Fund, Huntz said. Susi Sinton was a nurse, a long-time member of Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, where she provided volunteer services for seniors. When she died, she left money to Catholic Charities and the diocesan Human Rights Office to establish a fund to aid local charities through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Some local CCHD grant recipients have included Veronica’s Voice, Hispanic Outreach of St. Joseph, and more recently, Amethyst Place and Sparks of Hope. The national grants are awarded in two categories: Community Education and Community Economic Development.
2011 grant recipients funded through the national CCHD office:
Community Education grant
Kansas City Urban Youth Center, $40,000. The Kansas City Urban Youth Center provides after-school, summer and weekend activities to at-risk children and teenagers in Kansas City’s urban core. Initiatives include tutoring, a community garden program, various athletic programs, and community organizing training for youth who commit to positive change in their schools. Beth Falkenstein, Leadership Coordinator, said this year’s grant would be used to fund youth programs including initiatives empowering youth and encouraging student academic leadership and choosing healthy options in nutrition. Youth empowerment and student academic leadership are important, she said, because “We want youth to want to be part of the team, be part of the change for the better in their schools. We started with the high schools, and now we are working with younger students to encourage them to be a part of the change, too.” Falkenstein said Kansas City Urban Youth Center partners with CCO community organizers to work with young people, encouraging youth organizing, which is different from community organizing. Youth organizing promotes academic leadership and being part of the team.
She said that Kansas City Urban Youth Center is considering partnering with local urban farmers to interest and encourage children and teens in making healthy nutrition choices.
Community Economic Development grant
Holy Rosary Credit Union, $45,000. Credit unions help people help themselves, said Carole Wight, Chief Executive Officer of the credit union. The Catholic faith “believes that we should help each other, and work together, for the good of all. The parallel between faith and credit unions couldn’t be stronger,” she said.
Wight said the grant would be used to help Holy Rosary Credit Union expand to parishes and Catholic institutions that are currently not served by a faith-based credit union. The funds will be used in conjunction with a federal grant to build the credit union’s capacity and offer more services to current and potential members. Part of the grant will fund the hiring of an Americorps/Vista staff member who will develop a Business Incubator/micro loan program to prepare entrepreneurs to establish small businesses.
Local 2011 CCHD grant recipients:
Migrant Farmworkers Project, $5,000. Suzanne Gladney, managing attorney for the Migrant Farmworkers Project, an initiative of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, said that the grant would be used to provide legal assistance to immigrants at no cost to them. Gladney said the grant would be used toward the establishment of a new program that would reorganize and expand its immigration legal support services for families, parish communities and neighborhoods in the diocese. Titled the One Human Family program, taken from Pope Benedict XVI’s message on the 2011 World Day of Immigration, it is intended to promote the dignity and human rights of immigrants.
Gladney said the program will help mitigate family separations due to arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants; promote neighborhood safety by facilitating communication between immigrants and local law enforcement; support parish communities in their solidarity with poorer parishes around the world and with local immigrant families; coordinate legal support for domestic violence and human trafficking victims, and work to raise awareness of the situation immigrant families face.
Bishop Sullivan Center, $5,000. People who have jobs may still live in poverty. Job-related transportation challenges can be solved, said Joe Quinn, who coordinates Drive KC to Work for Bishop Sullivan Center.
He told the story of a woman who makes $12/hour as a night manager at a local Wendy’s restaurant. Her shift ends at midnight, and there being no public transportation (buses) to her neighborhood available at that hour, she has been forced to use two hours pay ($25) to take a cab home. Through Drive KC to Work, she was recently able to qualify for a no-interest loan for a used car. The Bishop Sullivan Center program gives no-interest car loans for up to $4,000 to eligible candidates who are experiencing employment-related transportation challenges. Quinn said, in effect, Bishop Sullivan Center gave the woman a 25 percent raise in pay as well as the flexibility and security of a vehicle.
Quinn said the CCHD grant will be used to help fund the no-interest loan program for low-income people. Drive KC to Work is a multi-step program designed to ensure that its participants are successful car owners, thereby increasing their chances for employment. Applicants are screened to ensure that they can afford the car, insurance and other typical costs associated with car ownership.
In 1972, three Catholic parishes in northeast Kansas City established Cooperative Social Services in response to the growing number of people living in poverty in their neighborhoods. In 1994 it was renamed in honor of Bishop John J. Sullivan, a former bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese.
In the beginning, Bishop Sullivan Center offered limited assistance to pay utility bills and a food pantry for families in need. The needs of people grew over the years and so did the Center’s services. Bishop Sullivan Center now operates two food pantries, a community kitchen at St. James Place on Troost, employment services, a clothes closet, elderly services and financial emergency assistance.
St. Therese Little Flower Parish, $5,000 to provide financial education for the neighborhood. Business manager Kristen Huntz said the parish plans to use the grant to build a curriculum specific to an African-American neighborhood population.
She said the parish had been talking with Carole Wight of Holy Rosary Credit Union about the possibility of joining the credit union to enable parishioners to access their services. Huntz said the subject of financial education came up, and Wight mentioned a program at St. Anthony Church. It was designed specifically for a Hispanic population, both established and newly arrived in the neighborhood. Residents of the St. Therese Little Flower neighborhood have different needs and knowledge, she said.
Huntz said the parish plans to design a curriculum to educate parishioners and eventually neighborhood residents to take control of their money and their credit. “We see people out of high school but without a college education, holding minimum wage jobs and unable to get ahead. Perhaps they don’t know how. Maybe they were hurt in the recent mortgage crisis, or they have been victims of predatory payday lenders. We wrote the grant to build and administer a financial education curriculum specific to a lower-income African-American population.”
The parish plans to hold six 2-hour sessions for 10 families beginning this fall and early winter, she said. “The families must commit to the program for example, if they’re in a two-parent household, both parents must agree to come, and commit to all six sessions. We will provide incentives for them, including child care during the sessions and a meal.”
Huntz said the hope is that the financial education program will grow and the parish can reach out beyond its parishioners, beginning with residents who utilize St. Therese’s emergency services. “We look for a mix of parish and neighborhood, “she added.