On December 1, more than 200 supporters of Catholic Charities came together at The Biltmore’s Coral Casino for the 26th annual Mistletoe Ball. Ladies, clad in classic black and festive holiday gowns, and their dates mingled on the partially tented La Pacifica Ballroom Terrace before adjourning to the ballroom for dinner, where hundreds of orange balloons on the ceiling lent a festive flair.
Emcee Neal Graffy welcomed guests and explained how Catholic Charities serves the working poor, providing not a handout but a hand up. He highlighted the crucial role Catholic Charities plays in food distribution, distributing more than 2.1 million pounds of food annually. Graffy mentioned the plethora of other services it provides and emphasized that all funds raised in Santa Barbara stay in the county. Father Larry Gosselin gave a lovely prayer, and Bishop Robert Barron provided a moving speech on how integral serving the poor is to the Catholic faith. John Palminteri led an extensive auction and an ask. All donations made in November and December are being matched by an anonymous benefactor. Anne Smith Towbes presented the event’s Community Stars, Erin Graffy and Dr. James Garcia, who were honored for their extensive service to the community, and then guests danced into the night.
Catholic Charities began in 1924 as the Ladies Aid Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and currently operates, with a $1.8 million budget, as The Santa Barbara Region of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles. It provides many forms of assistance to the working poor through its offices in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Lompoc, and Santa Maria. Last year, it served about 2,400 unduplicated people in the City of Santa Barbara and more than 17,000 countywide.
When a client first comes to Catholic Charities, he or she meets with a bilingual coordinator to discuss the clients’ needs and to jointly develop an action plan to address all those needs. Food distribution is done in conjunction with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and area grocery stores and is distributed through Catholic Charities’ four offices and four mobile food distribution sites. It operates thrift stores 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 the organization’s 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, provides medical supplies, and makes referrals. 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. Volunteers, without regard to religious affiliation, are always needed to assist its very lean staff. Currently, Catholic Charities needs volunteers to help in its food pantries, thrift stores, and offices.
For more information about Catholic Charities, go to catholiccharities-sbc.org.
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By Gail Arnold