Local grants went to three poverty-oriented service organizations

By Deacon Jim Merle     8/30/2019

Three nonprofit service organizations that work with low- or no-income populations in Orange County recently were presented with annual local grants by the Most Reverend Thanh Thai Nguyen, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, in a ceremony at Christ Cathedral Pastoral Center.  Funded by donations from Diocese of Orange parishioners, the annual “November Needs” collection is a nationwide effort by Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) that asks the faithful to donate for both local and national grants that are used to fight poverty. The funds enable those affected to empower themselves through positive social and economic changes. Grants for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year in Orange County totaled $30,000.00, according to Dr. Greg Walgenbach, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, under which the CCHD local board works.


To apply, organizations are required to have an Internal Revenue Service 501 (c)(3) designation, be located in Orange County, be directed at serving residents of Orange County, and have those affected by poverty in some way be on the decision-making boards. Organizations that benefited from participating in the application process are: 

American Family Housing (a repeat applicant) – Established in 1994, its Self-Help Interfaith Program (SHIP) serves homeless individuals who can obtain permanent, full-time employment within 30 – 60 days of arriving in the program. SHIP’s goals is not to care for guests, but to train them how to take care of themselves and to provide for their basic needs during a four-month transitional living program. Seventy percent of their graduates since 1994 have found employment and housing. 

OBRIA Medical Clinics of Southern California (a new local applicant – strategic grant recipient) – Launched as Birthchoice in 1981 as a faith-based resource center to address gaps in reproductive health services for underserved populations, providing education and counseling to support young pregnant women.  It now offers services to all women and young men. The local grant request is to provide life-affirming healthcare in Anaheim and underserved areas of south Orange County through regular deployment of their Mobile Clinic, added in 2010. 

Thomas House Temporary Shelter, dba Thomas House Family Shelter (Transitional Shelter and Supportive Services and Homeless Prevention Services) – (a repeat applicant) – Opened in 1986 by parishioners of St. Barbara Catholic Church, it was founded to help homeless families in Garden Grove for a transitional period of nine months to one year. With two apartment buildings capable of housing 24 to 40 families, the organization works with low-income, at-risk families annually to avoid homelessness, provide part-time career development assistance for employment opportunities with educational assistance and career path learning and mentor youth sports and enrichment programs to further help youth overcome poverty and prepare for their future. The nonprofit works in tandem with 100 local partners including government, community and nonprofit providers. It accepts families that are large, multi-generation and teenage boys and fathers. 

CCHD was established 49 years ago in 1970 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to fund programs used for the mitigation of poverty, betterment of social and economic conditions and easing of racial and ethnic tensions. The Campaign is based on the Catholic Church’s moral and social teaching traditions and asks organizations requesting funding to respect human dignity, to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first, to acknowledge basic rights, duties and responsibilities, to work for the common good and to build and promote a civilization of love with a goal of peace in mind. 

“Currently, we only offer Community Organizing grants of up to $10,000 on a local level, where the national grants include this, plus Economic Development and Strategic.” Deacon Jim Merle, CCHD Diocesan Coordinator explained. “The Community Organizing works toward the elimination of the root causes of poverty and to enact institutional change. The Economic Development creates income and/or assets for people living in poverty and for their communities and is a dollar-for-dollar match up to $75,000. The Strategic grants are limited to five years and offer a yearly grant of $500,000 toward systemic changes for large groups of marginalized, disenfranchised and impoverished. 

“The local and national Community Organizing grants require that members living in poverty comprise at least 50 of those who plan, implement and make policy, hire and fire staff persons and have a leadership role on the Board of Directors,” Deacon Jim added. Nonprofit organizations receiving grants do not have to be Catholic. 

Each year, millions of dollars are donated and then disbursed through local CCHD diocesan or archdiocesan boards under the auspices of the local bishops.  In the Diocese of Orange California, local grants usually do not exceed $10,000. Twenty-five percent of all received funds are returned for local disbursement. The remaining 75 percent is disbursed by the national CCHD office in an amount not to exceed $75,000 with help of the local boards in reviewing applications, making site visits and providing general input for approval.   

Eighty-nine cents out of every dollar received by CCHD goes directly to community empowerment, economic development and education programs that work to break the cycle of poverty. Each year CCHD distributes national grants to more than 300 projects based in local communities. In addition, hundreds of smaller projects are funded through the 25 percent share of the CCHD collection retained by dioceses. 

“The local board of seven members works very diligently to read each application, schedule a site visit, review our findings, and then recommends which organization receives funds,” Deacon Jim said.  “Each and every organization is worthy. The hardest part is contacting those corporations that did not make it in a given year and encouraging them to return next year for a possible grant.” 

Local CCHD applications are available on the diocesan website under the Department of Life, Justice and Peace heading. Those applying have until Mother’s Day to complete their submission. The remainder of time is used by the local board to go through their review steps. Check disbursements are made after July with the new fiscal year. 

“Presenting a check to a winning organization is what makes this all worthwhile,” Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen commented.  “The recipients’ faces light up and there are big sighs of relief in knowing they have more money to continue their efforts on behalf of assisting those in the grips of poverty. God smiles brightly that day and we hope for many more days to come.”