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Catholic Charities Sunday: Loving our neighbors in Marin

May 1, 2015
Jeff Bialik
Executive Director, Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, serves more than 35,000 individuals, children and families in the Bay Area. On May 9 and 10, 2015, Catholic parishes in the three counties of the Archdiocese of San Francisco will take a second collection to support the work of Catholic Charities. This is the third of three articles that feature stories of people at-risk in our communities who are supported by Catholic Charities.

In previous issues of Catholic San Francisco, we highlighted the work of Catholic Charities in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. In this issue, we turn our attention to their work in Marin County.

Catholic Charities history of responding to the needs of at-risk individuals in Marin dates as far back as 1855 when the agency’s St. Vincent’s School for Boys was founded as a nurturing home for orphans of the California Gold Rush. Today, Catholic Charities serves thousands of individuals in the areas of Children and Youth Services, Behavioral Health Services, and Refugee and Immigrant Services. Each of these areas offers tangible ways to love our neighbors in the North Bay.

Here are a few stories of people in our community who, because of your generosity, are being lifted out of poverty by Catholic Charities today:

Catholic Charities Canal Family Support runs a special program called Kids Club, based at the Albert J. Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park in San Rafael. Carlos Garcia, senior program director for Catholic Charities Canal Family Support, recalls a special story from this past summer: Just days before the program started, an 8-year-old boy named Luis arrived from Cuba to live with his stepmother and father for the summer. He did not speak English, and was apprehensive about joining Kids Club as he had never participated in any such program before. It didn’t take long before Luis was totally engaged in the summer program, making new friends, learning English, and experiencing things he had never done in his home country. He immediately was taken under the wing of kids who became his translators and were always making sure he was included and understood the directions or instructions of a particular activity, game, or class.

Of the estimated 20 million refugees that exist worldwide today, up to 90,000 of them settle in the United States a year. Recently, a family of four arrived in the Bay Area fleeing the devastation of war in their homeland with only the possessions they could carry. Normally the staff of Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigrant Services has 90 days to make arrangements for a refugee family, but this time they had one week. RIS staff contacted St. Hilary Catholic Parish in Tiburon to help with the resettlement and, within days, two parishioners responded and began gathering all the clothing and household goods the family needed to help them get settled into temporary housing and a new life.

Catholic Charities St. Vincent’s School for Boys serves boys 7 to 17, many of whom struggle with emotional disturbances resulting from severe parental abuse and neglect. Steve Compagno, the veteran basketball coach at Larkspur’s Redwood High School, was at St. Vincent’s gym delivering balls last November, and noticed the youngsters’ less-than-ideal equipment. He was so moved by the mission of the program and need for new equipment that he assigned his varsity boys’ basketball players to serve as mentors for the St. Vincent’s youth living in the residential treatment home in San Rafael. Kent Eagelson, division director of Youth Residential Services and program director of St. Vincent’s, said, “A lot of these kids don’t have anybody rooting for them from their families, but now there is a group that has kind of adopted them. It has raised their self-esteem, their positive outlook – and now they also have another activity to enjoy, which is to go to Redwood games.”

Luis, the refugee family, and the boys at St. Vincent’s are our neighbors. Please consider giving to this year’s Catholic Charities Sunday second collection at your parish on May 9 or 10. By putting your faith in action, you show your love for thousands of brothers and sisters in your community.

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