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Catholic Charities Helping Those in Need

August 19, 2018

Sentinel & Enterprise

LEOMINSTER -- With the new school year fast approaching, the last thing on parents’ and children’s minds should be going to school without the appropriate supplies.

In partnership with many organizations, including the United Way, Catholic Charities Leominster has been a dependable resource for community members in transition and crisis and has now added a Backpack and School Supply Drive to their list of ways to help the community.

The Backpack and School Supply Drive is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 22, Thursday, Aug. 23, and Friday, Aug. 24, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., at 196 Mechanic St., and will provide a backpack and the supplies needed for each grade according to the list from their respective schools.

“The cause of charity seems outside our reach, considering that what divides us as a people always seems to present itself. Yet the experience of Catholic Charities suggests otherwise. When it comes to giving someone in need a bag of food, a package of diapers, or even a second chance at life, many people are willing to help,” said Jennifer Cameron, chief operating officer of Catholic Charities of Worcester County.

With all the expenses of everyday life, the costs of raising children is burdensome to many struggling families.

“We saw a need and filled it. It’s a program we offer in all of our regional offices,” said Maritza Cedeno, area administrator of the Leominster location.

“Parents can visit our office to complete a brief intake. All our services are contingent on income,” Maritza adds. “For example, a family of four with a household income of $35,000 to $40,000 per year would qualify for assistance. But we don’t refuse anyone if they’re unable to meet thresholds or provide documentation. We understand.”

In 1960 Catholic Charities of Worcester County opened a Fitchburg location to provide services to the community and 19 surrounding towns. After outgrowing the Fitchburg location, the office was relocated to the former St. Cecilia’s convent on Mechanic Street in 2005.

“Through various partnerships, we proudly can say that we can aid over 7,000 needy families on an annual basis,” said Cameron.

One of Catholic Charities’ most widely known resource is their food pantry.

“According to the latest report from Feeding America, one in 11 people (and one in eight children) are known to live in food-insecure households throughout Worcester County,” said Cedeno.

In partnership with the Worcester County Food Bank and the Community Harvest Project, Cedeno says, “we can feed thousands of families and bridge the gap between food stamps and paychecks for the living poor.”

Donors and funders provide Catholic Charities Leominster with the resources to assist eligible community members with utility costs, which is crucial in winter months given the disproportionately high local utility rates.

“Our Clothing Closet, which is stocked through the generous donations of community members, provides clothing and household items for families in need,” Cedeno added. “These items are given to the families, not sold. We’re always seeking gently used clothing for children and adults as well as household items, such as linens and cookware.”

Catholic Charities has recently expanded its services to provide a pet pantry, hygiene closet and diaper program.

“Maritza has a passion and ambition for expanding services and finding more meaningful ways to help the community. She pursued a partnership with Phinney’s and Friends through which we are now able to provide pet owners with wet and dry food, treats, collars, beds, strollers, and other items for furry family members,” says Jennifer.

“Pets are often considered family members,” Cameron said. “They sometimes serve as sole companions to the people we assist. Maritza identified the need and remedied it.”

The new hygiene pantry was also made possible by Cedeno and the Frances Drake Elementary School Youth Venture Team.

“Their 2018 project was to donate hygiene products for families in need,” Cameron said. “The children created a ‘Hygiene War’ with all grade levels in the school, kindergarten through grade five. The kindergarten pupils took first place with 750 items, with fifth-graders right behind them with 732 items.”

All pupils together donated 2,788 items.

Another important component to Catholic Charities is their diaper program, made possible through donors and grants.

The diaper program provides 30 diapers per month per child in a qualifying family. Diaper sizes range from newborn to size 6.

Catholic Charities of Worcester County operates 12 programs in 10 locations throughout central Massachusetts with a staff of approximately 300 employees and numerous volunteers and welcomes volunteers and donations to support their services.

“It doesn’t matter what church you attend, whether you attend at all, or your personal choices, it’s always possible to ‘do good to’ someone who needs it,” Cameron said.

For more information about services, volunteering or donating in the Leominster area, call 978-840-0696. For more information about other program and services, call the Catholic Charities main office in Worcester at 508-798-0191. You can also visit them online at www.ccworc.org , or like them on Facebook.

Got a column subject or item for Community Conversations? Email ccuddahy@sentinelandenterprise.com . Read her blog at blogs sentinelandenterprise.com/communityconversations .

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