As we reflect on the recent passion of Christ that culminated in our celebration his resurrection on Easter we might have asked ourselves, “How am I after these 40 days in the desert? Has this been an easy last 6 weeks or more difficult? Did I serve others with more love and passion or did I struggle? Am I actually getting better and closer to God or am I distracted with other discouragingly important things in my life and suffering more? These are the questions that define the season of Lent and Easter, but equally important, these are questions our clients ask themselves every day and often look to you for help with improving life and overcoming daily struggles.
Is Catholic Charities better off now, than 6 weeks prior to Christ’s passion? The answer is a resounding: YES! We have been the recipient of some beautiful gifts and several new grants. As I featured in my blog last month, we have merged our three Free & Charitable Clinics (St. Andre in Dade City, San Jose in Dover and La Esperanza in Wimauma) with our Mobile Medical Clinics. Sister Sara Procter has been a recipient of wonderful gifts from many private donors and grants from the Allegany Foundation, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Spurlino Foundation for our new Free & Charitable Clinic system, and we have brought on board Terri Flannery for St. Andre and CiCi Lopez as our Clinic Administrator La Esperanza. These clinics are fundamental for ensuring improved health outcomes for our immigrant and farmworker communities in Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.
We were recently awarded a new $97,000 grant to become the lead provider of Rapid Re-Housing in Pasco County. In addition, by the Grace of God and the Knights of Columbus we have received a $55,000 major gift to be shared 50/50 between Foundations of Life and the Elderly Respite Program in the Spring Hill office. A special thanks goes out to Jeannie Whitely, Charles Locasto, Taryn Mahabir-Best and Tomi Steinruck for leading and supporting our expanding efforts up north.
Two last confirmations that Catholic Charities is better off since the beginning of Lent. Thanks to Sister Pam Nolan and Judy Archambault we achieved REAC scores of 99 & 98 at Blessed Sacrament and Transfiguration respectively. REAC stands for Real Estate Assessment Center and earning REAC scores near 100 is critical to our success with HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). Importantly, our occupancy rates continue at near capacity (~100%), and many of our housing properties are in such demand we have a one or more year wait for those wishing to move in. Finally, we have completed the construction conversion of five, 20-foot long shipping containers into safe (withstand Category 4 Hurricane winds), private (individual rooms with a door that locks), and comfortable (air conditioned space with a bed) shelter homes we call ‘Hope Cottages’ to begin replacing tents at Pinellas Hope. This funding initiative is engaging donors and corporate sponsors to privately fund this internationally recognized micro-pod housing effort and we launch this at a major blessing event with Bishop Lynch on April 7. We are getting ready for the rise of our Lord and remain so excited for His passion and we love our commitment and passion at being leaders of Mercy across the Diocese. Thank you.