Catholic Charities fundraiser celebrates collaborations

The Register

Salina — Supporters of Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas were greeted with a surprise guest when they gathered July 22 for the annual fundraiser at the Salina Country Club.  Bishop-elect Jerry Vincke mingled with the crowd prior to the event, greeting attendees.  “Having the Bishop-elect there really brought an extra element of excitement,” said Michelle Martin, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “Everyone I spoke to was delighted to meet him.”


The 13th annual fundraiser, which had a $100,000 matching challenge, hit the match. Final numbers are still preliminary, but Martin estimates to the event raised more than $312,000.  “We helped over $300,000 in services last year for rent, utilities (and additional financial assistance),” Martin said during her address during the meal. “That doesn’t include counseling or immigration, or any of the staff’s time. This is where (the money raised) goes — to help the individuals.” 

Catholic Charities serves the poor across the diocese’s 31 counties in northwest Kansas. Yet Kevin Carrico, who emceed the event, reminded the crowd of one important thing.  “This event is not about setting records,” he said, adding the morning’s homily from his home parish flowed nicely into the fundraiser. “(The homily) was about prayer and action. We all pray, but tonight is an example of action. I’m thrilled you’re all here to act.”

Martin said the 17 types of services provided at Catholic Charities focus on stabilizing two areas: families and finances.  “Financial problems are often the No. 1 concern of families,” she said. “That goes hand in hand with family strengthening.”  Last year, 6,500 services were provided to individuals across northwest Kansas.  “We minister to everyone that comes into our doors that is qualified for services,” Martin said. “We don’t just help Catholics.”

She explained those living in poverty often work at minimum wage jobs. If they add one dependent, they are considered below the poverty line.  “Most of the people we serve are one paycheck away or one incident away or one new family member away from becoming underneath the poverty statistics,” Martin said. 

 

As she looks to the future, Martin said she hopes to continue existing collaborations with other agencies. She pointed to the collaboration of Salina Grace, which provided shelter to the homeless in Salina who didn’t qualify to stay at any of the other shelters during the cold, winter months.  “That was a big project and we were excited it went well its first year,” she said, “and are in planning stages again for next year.”

Catholic Charities previously collaborated with the Salina Adult Education Center to improve job skills for participants.  “Often we find individuals trying to get out of poverty and they have a lot of barriers,” Martin said. “How can they make more money? They need skills.”

With the additional space in their new facility, SAEC holds ESL classes. For the first time, the entire job skills class was hosted at Catholic Charities.  “It’s a great fit for the organizations,” she said. “They use their skills on the training and we use our skills on decreasing the barriers to get to class. We’re working collaboratively with them, and I would look for more of that to come.”

Even though the event raises money to help those who live in poverty, Carrico kept things light as he introduced the bishop-elect. He said during preparation for the fundraiser several months ago, he and Eric Frank, Director of Development for Catholic Charities, were unsure what they would do if there was not a bishop or bishop-elect present. So the two cooked up a Plan B.  “We had a backup plan,” Carrico said as he pulled out a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis. “I guess what we were going to do was have a silent invocation.”

Frank characterized the event as successful, saying the board of Catholic Charities set a goal to invite new faces to the annual event.  “We were at capacity with our RSVP’s,” he said, and added 280 were expected for the event. “The Salina Country Club told me they used all of their silverware and chairs for us and there was nowhere else to put anyone.”  Martin said the event always energizes her.  “It is such a special opportunity to see many friends and priests from across the Diocese,” she said, “and to thank them for all they do to help those in need through this ministry.”