On May 24, about 25 women gathered in a private dining room at Tydes at the Coral Casino for the inaugural Petite Angels Ladies Luncheon. Hosted by Advisory Board President Maribel Jarchow and Advisory Board Members Kristan O’Donnell and Miny Willmon, the event was an opportunity for women to learn about the multitude of programs Catholic Charities operates and the volunteer opportunities at the organization.
After a short reception, guests were seated at small tables in the private dining room with stunning ocean views for a delectable lunch before Director of Development Hannah Miller gave an overview of Catholic Charities programs and explained where volunteers are needed.
Catholic Charities somehow escapes many people’s notice, despite the enormous scope of its work and the critical role it plays in meeting the needs of low-income members of the Santa Barbara community. It began in 1924 as the Ladies Aid Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and currently operates as The Santa Barbara Region of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles. It has a $1.8 million budget.
Catholic Charities has offices in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Lompoc, and Santa Maria and four mobile food distribution sites. It serves about 21,000 unduplicated clients each year, more than half of whom are women and children.
Working with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and area grocery stores, Catholic Charities is the largest distributor of food in the county. In 2016, it delivered 3.1 million pounds of food.
It operates a thrift store with clothing and household items in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria and partners with the Second Time Around Thrift Store in Lompoc, where income-qualified clients shop with vouchers issued monthly by the organization. The general public is also encouraged to shop at these stores; all proceeds support its programs.
Catholic Charities provides qualified counselors for those dealing with any type of issue. A nurse from Parish Nursing sees patients for general nursing care, including vaccinations, and offers medical supplies, makes referrals, and provides follow-up care. When clients need additional medical care that they cannot afford, Catholic Charities applies to The Cecilia Fund for funding.
With federal grant funds, Catholic Charities provides rental and utility assistance to qualified clients. For low-income seniors with pets, it provides funds for veterinary care.
Catholic Charities does all this in its own quiet way, seeking to help those in need without seeking the limelight.
The wide-ranging goods and services provided by the organization are available to any income-qualified resident of Santa Barbara County, without regard to religious affiliation or immigration status. Its main demographic is the working poor, but it provides nonperishable food items and thrift store vouchers to the homeless as well. Many clients are not only working, but working multiple jobs. With the high cost of living and low wages, many in the county still struggle to meet their basic expenses.
Guests learned that volunteers, without regard to religious affiliation, are always needed to assist its very lean staff. Currently, Catholic Charities needs volunteers to help in the food pantries, in the thrift stores, in the offices, and with the planning of its major fundraiser, the Mistletoe Ball, on December 1 at the Coral Casino.
For more information about Catholic Charities, go to catholiccharities-sbc.org.
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By Gail Arnold