Appeal helps ministries aid those in crisis

ROCHESTER — Erica King calls the Community Resource Services program the "triage point" for people turning to Catholic Family Center for assistance.

"We’re the basic needs program," said King, clinical supervisor of Community Resource Services, which provides food and emergency funds to area residents.

Individuals turn to Community Resource Services when they face myriad situations, she said, from losing jobs, to running out of food because their social-service benefits ran out, to having another mouth to feed after suddenly getting custody of a grandchild because a son or daughter is going to jail.

Community Resource Services is among several agencies and parishes that receive funds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, said Marvin Mich, director of advocacy and parish social ministry at Catholic Family Center.

Community Resource Services gets a larger portion of funding from the Christmas Appeal, Mich said. Last year, the program served 2,500 households, King said.

When the need is food, Community Resource Services works in partnership with Foodlink to provide as many healthy food choices as possible while also allowing clients to choose what they need from its food cupboard, she said.

Community Resource Services also provides hygiene items, which also are important when a client is trying to obtain an apartment or impress a potential employer for a job, King said.

"Providing these products can make a huge difference for people," she said.

Additionally, the appeal funds allow her case managers to allocate money for anyone in need of a one-time grant for a security deposit or first month’s rent for an apartment, she said. The amount available for that financial assistance is usually in flux because funds are allocated as they are received by the agency, King noted.

When emergency cash funds are available, clients line up outside the office’s location at 539 Joseph Ave. to apply for assistance, she remarked.

"There is not enough of that (funding) out there in the community," King said. "The Christmas Appeal money really helps people when they have a crisis in their lives so they can try and stabilize."

With stability in mind, Community Resource Services has been moving toward a new model of helping people attain financial self-sufficiency, King said. They have begun working with clients to set goals and budgets and discuss how to prioritize when a crisis does hit, she explained.

"We’re not doing anybody favors giving them money but leaving them in the exact same situation," King said.

Helping people in times of transition also is how Bethany House, a Catholic Worker shelter for homeless women and children, uses its $800 Christmas Appeal grant, explained Donna Ecker, its codirector. With the money it receives from the Christmas Appeal, Bethany House provides emergency prescriptions for women coming out of incarceration, pays heating bills for residents who don’t qualify for other assistance but face having their power cut off, and also offers emergency transportation, she said.

"We assist people with emergency transportation if they’ve had a relative who passed away in another area, or women who are fleeing a domestic violence situation and need to be in another area," Ecker said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To donate to the Christmas Appeal, make checks payable to Christmas Appeal and send them to the Catholic Courier, PO Box 24379, Rochester, NY 14624. Please include your name, address, city, state, ZIP code, telephone number, and whether the gift is being made in honor or memory of someone. For more information, visit

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