Catholic Charities of Orange County for 44 years has served society’s most vulnerable individuals and families – those of us least prepared to survive a crisis like the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Already struggling before the COVID-19 disaster struck, many find themselves without food or shelter and some face deportation.
“At Catholic Charities we are willing to help all who come to us and treat them with dignity and kindness,” says Rose Ann Stock, interim executive director. “It really is an amazing organization with hard-working, dedicated staff who risk their own health to provide services to others less fortunate.”
So dire are the economic circumstances wrought by the current health crisis that the organization’s food bank has seen its numbers doubling and tripling from week to week, Stock says. On April 1, 201 households and 700 individuals received assistance from the organization’s Santa Ana-based Cantlay Food Distribution Center; during the final week of the month, 731 households and 3,655 individuals sought help. Totals for the month were 6,433 individuals and 32,392 individuals. The Cantlay Center, operating since 1976, is one of Orange County’s largest food banks.
But food distribution, as vital as it is, is just one part of Catholic Charities’ mission. Collectively, Stock says, Catholic Charities of Orange County’s outreach efforts have increased by 242 percent since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus – along with the skyrocketing need for additional funds and volunteers.
“Demand for help is always so high,” Stock says. “While we are a Catholic organization, we serve the entire community of Orange County. It’s because of our faith that we serve – we believe in the dignity of everyone.”
With 12 Catholic Charities offices located statewide California, the organization makes up California’s largest non-government social service provider. The Orange County office is part of the network of Catholic Charities USA, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charitable organizations.
“Because of our longevity and our history, we are a trusted source of help,” Stock notes, “not only for people in need but also for social workers who contact us when they have someone in dire need. They tell us, ‘I’ve heard wonderful things about you and know I can trust you.’”
The organization has three main missions: Life-sustaining services, help for the displaced or marginalized, and the promotion of spiritual and emotional health.
Catholic Charities of Orange County:
- Provides quality professional social services to individuals and families to transform hopelessness and despair into self-reliance and optimism.
- Advocates for justice and respect to transform social structures so that human dignity, reverence for family life and community well-being are embraced.
- Expands knowledge, providing education and resources to assist Catholic parishes to live out the Gospel’s call to practice works of charity and justice.
In addition, Stock says, the organization is assisting the U.S. government in compiling figures for the 2020 Census.
Still, in light of the novel coronavirus crisis, the organization’s laser-focus at present is generating funding and volunteers in response to burgeoning need.
“We are seeing a few more donations, but obviously it’s not nearly enough,” Stock notes. “We’ve been pounding the pavement looking for volunteers as the demand for food has cars lined up for the drive-through distribution. We need more assistance all the time.”
She invites potential donors to send checks sent through the mail or make payments via PayPal or credit cards on Catholic Charities of Orange County’s website at ccoc.org. Alba Romiro, coordinator of volunteers and parish ministry, invites interested potential volunteers to contact her at [email protected] or 714-347-9668.
“I’ve seen the people affected most gravely by COVID-19,” Stock observes. “People recognize that everyone’s just trying to maneuver through it, but it you were already in a precarious position to begin with, you are facing some very scary times.”
CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF ORANGE COUNTY
Catholic Charities of Orange County serves as a social services agency in the Diocese of Orange, promoting a holistic approach to social service delivery that is client-centered and community-based.
“Our strength lies not only in the effectiveness of the services we provide, but in our ability to access our community’s hard-to-reach populations in need,” says the organization’s website.
Serving God’s people in need without regard to their religious affiliation, among the services it provides are:
- Food pantry distribution programs
- Nutrition education and obesity prevention classes
- CalFresh enrollment and education
- Immigration and citizenship assistance
- Counseling and therapy services for children, adults and families
- New Hope Crisis Counseling Hotline at 714-NEW-HOPE
- Natural family planning education
- Camps for people with disabilities
The Cantlay Food Distribution Center at 2020 W. Chestnut Ave. in Santa Ana offers drive-through food distribution on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to noon. Call 714-347-9694 for more information.
Catholic Charities of Orange County is located at 1820 E. 16th St., Santa Ana CA 92701; phone is 714- 347-9600.