December 9, 2015 // Local

New mobile unit takes Catholic Charities to the peripheries

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offers a blessing at a Dec. 4 service officially kicking off Catholic Charities’ Mobile Division.

By Tim Johnson

FORT WAYNE — Catholic Charities is hitting the road. Armed with a new mobile unit, Gloria Whitcraft, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said, “Our goal is to serve as many people in the diocese as possible.”

Catholic Charities has permanent operations with offices in Allen, St. Joseph and DeKalb counties, but “if we had a mobile unit, we could dispatch the mobile unit to each county at least a couple of times per month to serve the poor and vulnerable,” Whitcraft told Today’s Catholic.

Whitcraft’s goal is to make Catholic Charities a resource to the parishes throughout the diocese. Building that relationship with the parishes is a top priority for Catholic Charities, she noted.

Whitcraft said the mobile unit should assist Catholic Charities’ adherence of Pope Francis’ call to “go out to the peripheries.”

“Don’t expect the people to come to us in our comfortable offices,” Whitcraft said. “We need to go out and serve them, find them and make sure they have access to the basic needs.”

The goals of the mobile unit include attending to the needs of Catholic Charities’ target population — where they live, work and go to school. Through the mobile unit, Catholic Charities plans to conduct rolling research, learn the specific needs of their target population and develop effective strategies to address those concerns.

By being visible in each county, Catholic Charities also desires to create opportunities for local funding through county-specific foundations and investors and establish collaborative relationships with other agencies, bringing in partners who can address needs that don’t fall within the scope of Catholic Charities’ mission. The mobile unit will also give Catholic Charities the opportunity to expand the organization’s reach in a cost-effective way and nurture strategic partnerships with parish communities, expanding awareness of the agency’s mission and increasing engagement opportunities with parish members.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the mobile unit on Friday, Dec. 4, in the parking lot of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

During this Year of Mercy, the services of Catholic Charities fall under the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This includes providing food for the hungry, whether through the food pantry such as the one operated in South Bend, or through food vouchers. They also give drink to the thirsty and clothe the naked. The Auburn office offers a coat program, and in Fort Wayne and South Bend, Catholic Charities assists with financial vouchers for clothing needs.

Catholic Charities offers resource assistance with rent as well, and offers provisional services for those suffering both emotionally and spiritually. They also offer home-based and school-based programs for those dealing with illnesses. Catholic Charities can also provide family development needs such as budgeting issues.

Whitcraft hopes to take the mobile unit to various parishes in the rural counties where Catholic Charities does not have operations. At first, there will be needed research to see what needs are unmet in each county. Whether it is working with issues of teen pregnancy, teen parenting or getting teens to graduate from high school, the needs could vary from county to county.

“We want to find what is the greatest need in each county that is unmet, that is aligned with our mission, aligned with our target population — the poor and vulnerable — and is aligned with our core competencies,” Whitcraft said.

At this point, Whitcraft is not going to be too rigid or too fixed on the services that could be available. “It’s really important to get into the community and find out what the needs are,” she said. Catholic Charities would not want to duplicate services already available through other social services agencies. And they hope to partner with other local agencies to provide a means for the poor and vulnerable to access services.

The artistic wrap on the mobile unit will be a visible sign Catholic Charities is taking its services out to the peripheries, being part of the New Evangelization. “If the people of the diocese see the Church — and Catholic Charities is an extension of the Church — out in their community as often as possible, serving people in need, then that has to be good for the Church,” Whitcraft noted.

The vehicle and the graphics wrap on the vehicle were generous donations. Catholic Charities’ board member Father Glenn Kohrman made the connections with the donors.

Volunteers are also needed for this effort in each county. Catholic Charities would like a volunteer recruiter. Then additional volunteers would help with the scheduling of appointments for services. At present, Catholic Charities is networking with parishes and community partners to explain the purpose of the mobile unit.

Like the many services of Catholic Charities, the mobile unit is dependent upon the generosity of the faithful. Donors may contribute online or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 915 S. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

“We need people to prayerfully consider support for the mobile unit,” Whitcraft said. The goal of Catholic Charities is to help people live a dignified life, “and we want to provide the resources to help them get there,” she said.

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