Women circle back with the ministries they support

Story and Photos By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

It wasn’t the first go-round for 40 or so members of the Catholic Women’s Giving Circle of the Catholic Community Foundation  (CCF) to take a bus tour to nonprofit organizations that they support. But it was the first time the 2019 grant recipients – with missions concentrated in the circle’s 2019 focus on “Family Health – Spiritual, Emotional, Physical” – relayed how they benefitted from their share of the circle’s $142,500 grants this year.

After Mass at the Willwoods Community, Women’s Giving Circle members stopped first at the Harry Tompson Center’s medical clinic at the St. Joseph Rebuild Center, a recipient of the highest grant of $30,000.

Vicki Judice, the center’s executive director, said the Women’s Giving Circle grant was among the largest, non-governmental support the program received this year.

“Thank you so much for this grant for our medical clinic,” Judice said, giving a tour of the center and its “4 Hs” of care: hospitality, hygiene, health and links to housing.

“We have a robust case management team to help people navigate the process for housing,” she said.

Judice distributed a recent article on homelessness and presented facts about the homeless population: the average homeless mortality age is 50; 1,100 people in New Orleans experience homelessness annually, with average homelessness from three weeks to three months; 99% of center visitors were poor before they came; a health crisis is something that can trigger homelessness.

Harry Tompson Center’s assistant director Emily Wain gave a medical clinic tour and mentioned how the clinic, established in 2008, serves basic physical and emotional needs of approximately 1,000 low-income and homeless patients annually. Volunteer medical professionals see clients twice weekly for reasons that range from needing over-the-counter medicine, prescriptions, psychiatric care, bee stings and medical supplies.

“Your grant allows us to do some things like administer an EpiPen for a bee sting that we wouldn’t normally be able to do (because of cost),” she said.

She mentioned the greatest needs of the clinic are over-the-counter medicines, socks, hygiene and other supplies. She was to send the Giving Circle a list of items that members could individually donate anytime.

Others told their stories

At the second stop – Bridge House/Grace House, which received a $20,000 grant – a female Grace House client shared how her experience in the home has benefitted her recovery.

At Raintree Children and Family Services, case workers reported positive results from occupational and physical therapy with clients under age 3, Lisa Chmiola, Catholic Community Foundation’s director of gift planning, said.

Once the group returned to Willwoods for lunch, other grant recipients – the archdiocese’s Hispanic Apostolate, its Respect Life Office, ACCESS Pregnancy, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Counseling Solutions and St. Vincent Maternity Clinic and the Louisiana Coalition Against Human Trafficking’s Free Indeed Home – updated how their ministry benefits from the extra money.

The bus tours are the final yearly activity for members. Generally, the new year starts with a Mass and kickoff luncheon after Ash Wednesday, where members vote on the first round of possible grant recipients, based on the year’s focus area.

A Mass and a “sip and learn” reception follows weeks later, with presentations from finalist organizations and members voting. Grants are usually awarded after Easter at a Mass and celebration breakfast.

The giving circle gives to organizations that reflect the Catholic faith and make a difference in the local community, said Chmiola. Since its founding, approximately $540,000 has been awarded in grants.

Past grant recipients helped by the circle include the Woman’s New Life Center, Covenant House, St. Michael Special School, Hotel Hope, Sisters Servants of Mary, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Café Hope, Catholic Charities’ Adoption Services and the Gianna Center of the Gulf South.

Diana Dalton Stieffel, this year’s Women’s Giving Circle co-chair with Karen Eagan, said members may be giving money, but they are receiving so much more in return and learning through the bus tours and presentations about obscure organizations that are doing great work.

“For me, it’s just being able to look into the eyes of the people we are helping and seeing first-hand and hearing first-hand the impact we are making,” Stieffel said. ”It really hits home today (on the tour).”

“It’s amazing the numbers of small ministries you’ve never heard about that are doing good work that are in our community,” Eagan said. “There are so many that need our help. … We’ve seen in the past year many small, tucked-away ministries that are filling a need in their neighborhoods.”

To learn about the Catholic Women’s Giving Circle, attend an informational session Nov. 20 at either 8:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. at the Catholic Community Foundation office, 1000 Howard Ave., suite 800, New Orleans or go to: https://ccfnola.org/wgc-rsvp, call 527-5794.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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