By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ST. JOSEPH — If Mike Halterman, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph had to list the services the agency has provided and the people it has helped during the past year in 25 words or less, he couldn’t do it. That’s because more than 200,000 people of all faiths in Northwest Missouri received food, shelter and utility assistance, as well as other needs. Forty-one foster children now have permanent safe homes, and 250 pregnant women and their families received services and support to ensure a good beginning for their babies. Through the TurnAround Program, 125 former offenders received employment assistance, transportation assistance, and other important services to help them reenter the community. Catholic Charities also responded to the needs of the people of Joplin following the tornado last May, and to the ongoing efforts to help those in the four counties hit by flooding, Atchison, Holt, Andrew and Buchanan. More than 488 dedicated volunteers provided more than 27,180 hours of community service to the agency. And that’s just the beginning.
Since 2009, Catholic Charities has assisted more than 1,300 homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. And two programs are beginning to help meet the needs of veterans in Kansas City and in St. Joseph. St. Michael’s Housing provides permanent scattered site housing for homeless veterans in St. Joseph and ground will be broken this year for a 22-acre veteran’s campus, St. Michael’s Veteran’s Center, near the VA hospital in Kansas City. Services on the campus will include housing, medical and counseling services, a memorial garden and other services.
But, Catholic Charities is more than the programs, more than the mission of the agency, more than the people who work there. It is the sum of all the above and more.
For the past eight years, the agency has recognized those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to “be Catholic Charities” for others, reflecting the hope they’ve given. Several years ago, the Reflections of Hope luncheon was established as a way of honoring those with Community Spirit. The annual luncheon is a benefit for Catholic Charities in Northwest Missouri, but also a way for many outreach agencies and providers to learn about and support each other. About 160 people attended this year’s event. A new video, produced by Kathie Conwell of Catholic Charities Foundation, illustrated the many ways people are Catholic Charities.
Before the luncheon began, Benedictine Father Daniel Petsche, prior of Conception Abbey, led the blessing. “Lord,” he said, “you have told us that it is you whom we serve whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick or those in prison. As we sit down to this simple soup lunch, let us remember that if we strive to live simply, others may simply live.”
This year, the Community Spirit Awards honored four individuals who, by their example, show what it means to be Catholic Charities.
Patrick Turner is the owner of the Pizza Shoppe in St. Joseph. He has designated the third Thursday of each month as Catholic Charities Day. Every third Thursday, 10 percent of the evening sales are donated to Catholic Charities. The Pizza Shoppe donation is used to provide transportation to Catholic Charities clients. More than 500 bus passes have been purchased, which helps Charities clients get to work, to doctor’s appointments and to look for employment.
Tom and Helen Rehm are members of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in St. Joseph, and have coordinated serving the noon meal at the Open Door Food Kitchen eight times a year for the past 15 years. They solicit food donations, coordinate and train volunteers who help them prepare and serve the meals, and they work the serving lines. Shepherd’s Pie is their specialty for their lunch day.
“We have a team of 25 people who help us; they’re like our left hands,” Tom Rehm said. “Last year we served about 2,000 people. The year before there were about 2,500 people, so last year was down a bit. With the economy the way it is now, we’re starting to creep back up.”
“And for many of them, that’s their only meal of the day,” added Helen Rehm. “Just knowing that people appreciate the meal makes it all worthwhile.”
For Tom, being able to help those in need is a great feeling and, “with the team, we have fun!”
St. Rose of Lima parishioner Elaine Ingle is busy in her Savannah community, a member of Show Me Women Who Care, which raises money to donate to local causes in Andrew and Buchanan counties. Ingle retired from teaching to take an active role in the care of her three grandchildren, ages 2, 5 and 7. She is St. Rose’s music coordinator and parish organist, and serves on the parish council and environment committee. She also is the parish Confirmation director, and teaches religious education to high school students, calling them “Sharers of the Spirit.” She has led students in mission-based experiences at the Social Welfare Board, Patee House, the Open Door Food Kitchen and Catholic Charities TurnAround Program, which in turn led to her becoming active in prison ministry.
“The Holy Spirit guides me,” Ingle said. “God doesn’t have timelines; He just calls us to help others, to reach out to serve Him through them. It’s spiritually rewarding to help out. And you know, I want to let people know that anyone who is in need, no matter what faith they follow, can get help. There’s so much need and Catholic Charities has their hands in everywhere. We just don’t realize all the needs out there. I’m anxious for my grandchildren to grow old enough to serve at the food pantry and in other ways.”
It’s important to Ingle, and to the Rehms, to get the word out about the mission of Catholic Charities. Janet Baker, executive director of Catholic Charities Foundation, described the agency’s mission as “helping everyday people, every day.”
To learn more about Catholic Charities, visit www.catholiccharites-kcsj.org.