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Thanksgiving baskets

The annual Thanksgiving basket partnership between Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. took place Nov. 16. 
The students, teachers, staff and Rice community put together baskets of food and decorations for a full Thanksgiving feast for needy families from the Chittenden County area.  From turkeys and stuffing to pies and candles, goodies were placed with care in baskets and boxes. 
Twenty-one families (46 adults and 59 children) will enjoy a full Thanksgiving dinner thanks to this project.
“Thank you so much for the Thanksgiving basket. Without your generosity, we would not have a Thanksgiving this year. We all appreciate it more than you know,” said one recipient.
“Thank you so much for your help this year in helping my children have a great Thanksgiving. It is people like you that help us all grow.  Thank you!” said another.
Members of the Vermont Catholic Charities and Diocese of Burlington staff judged the baskets. The judges were inspired and impressed with the creative and overflowing baskets.  
The students who worked on the winning basket earned a dress-down day. There was a tie this year so the dress down day was awarded to the students from Gretchen Fricke-Langan’s and Sarah Smith Conroy’s classes.  
“As emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities, I feel blessed and thankful this Thanksgiving for the support of our extended community at VCC and Rice,” said Irene Manion, emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities. “It is so gratifying to see the generosity and spirit of the entire Rice community come together from the students, staff, parents — the abundant food donations, the beautifully decorated baskets and the spirit of sharing and helping our neighbors in need. The families we assisted could not have been more excited and appreciative, some were overwhelmed with the generosity, some almost tearful for the kindness. It truly makes me thankful to see how VCC and Rice working together can bring holiday joy to our friends and neighbors.”
  • Published in Schools

Loretto Home residents' portraits

Artist Louise Kenney is shining a light on the uniqueness and dignity of each resident of Loretto Home in Rutland, creating one pastel portrait a week to give to them.
Cindy Johnson of Christ the King Parish in Rutland was the first to be drawn when Kenney began the project on March 8, Johnson’s 62nd birthday. “It’s something you’re going to remember,” she said of the experience being interviewed by the artist and having her photo taken.
“It’s something you’re always going to have,” she added of the portrait, which clues the viewer into Johnson’s enjoyment in calling bingo on Sundays at the elder care home administered by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. (A basket of bingo balls is seen in the bottom right corner of the portrait.)
After meeting with the resident, learning about him/her and taking photographs, Kenney returns to her studio and spends about 10 hours on each portrait before returning to Loretto Home the next week to deliver it and begin another.
“Every Wednesday people wait for Louise to see the portrait” for that week, said resident Thomas Munukka.
In his portrait he is wearing a shirt with a deer emblem, a nod to his interest in hunting. His children liked the portrait so much, they got two copies so one could have the original and the other two could have the copies. “I loved it, and the kids liked it better,” he said with a smile.
Resident Norma Patterson was pleased to have a portrait of herself, “which is very rare,” she said. An award she received from the Paramount Theater can be seen in the background.
“And it will probably be the last” portrait done of her, she added.
As much as the residents enjoy the portraits, they also like to visit with Kenney, and they feel honored.
There are about 43 residents at Loretto Home; Kenney has done portraits for about two dozen.
“You see a twinkle in their eye when they get their picture, and it gives them something to look forward to,” said Maryese White, activities director.
Her predecessor had been looking for someone to do portraits of the residents, so when Kenny – a retired speech-language pathologist -- had “divine inspiration” to embark on the project and contacted her, it was a go.
She specializes in pastel portraiture. “I find it is so rewarding to produce a painting that not only captures a physical likeness but portrays the essence and personality of my subject,” she notes on her website.
Frames for the portraits are courtesy of a friend of Kenney who wanted to support the endeavor, and a volunteer provides high quality digital prints of the photographs from which Kenney works.
Kenney – a wife, mother of two and grandmother of one – was not formally trained but has taken workshops and classes.
She called the Loretto Home project “extremely rewarding” because of the smiles she sees when residents receive their portrait.
“I was really surprised how it looked like me!” Manukka enthused.
For more information, go to louisekenneyportraitart.wordpress.com.
  • Published in Diocesan

2017 Bishop deGoesbriand grants

Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has awarded 27 grants through The Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal for Human Advancement.
The non-profit organizations that received the grants make meaningful differences in the daily lives of Vermont individuals and families.
Each November, Vermont parishes take a second collection to support this grant program. One hundred percent of the money collected is distributed throughout the statewide Diocese of Burlington in the form of grants to local non-profit organizations who seek to create a higher quality of life in their communities at, for example, homeless shelters, right-to-life programs and food programs for children and families.
“As a Catholics, our mission is to help the vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities.
“By supporting the Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal, donors are enriching the lives of individuals and families in all corners of the state. Vermont Catholic Charities is grateful for the tremendous support from Catholics.”
Since this grant program began in 2011, Vermont Catholic Charities has awarded more than $377,000.
“The grant positively impacts the hungry people who are able to receive a hot healthy meal four days a week, as well as take-out meals when needed,” said someone associated with St. Brigid’s Kitchen in Brattleboro.
“Living on a college campus can seem like living in a bubble at times, with practically
everything you need at your fingertips, but going into Burlington and serving at the
Salvation Army can really pop that bubble,” commented a University of Vermont student who helps with meals there. “It is a great way to take a step back and think about what we really are here for.”
This year the following organizations received grants totaling $58,139:
* Addison County Community Action (HOPE) ($3,000) Middlebury
Funding will support the organization’s Essential Services Program, which provides vital assistance to those unable to meet their own basic needs for food, shelter, heat, and medical care.
* Aunt Dot’s Place ($500) Essex Junction
Aunt Dot’s Place is a new organization with the mission “to organize volunteers who will provide a safe and welcoming place where the less fortunate can obtain help with basic needs such as food, clothing and community resources.” Funding will support this start up.
* Branches Pregnancy Resource Center ($600) Brattleboro
Funding will be used to help begin a new Fatherhood Program which is a mentoring and teaching program for expecting/new fathers taught by men.
* Aspire Together ($1,000) St. Albans and Burlington
Funding will be used to train new client service advocates to meet the demand of the two offices.
* Cathedral Parish Food Shelf Ministry ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will be used to purchase non-perishable food items for families/individuals in need in the Burlington area.
* Catholic Center at The University of Vermont -- Feed The Hungry  ($2,130) Burlington
Students at the University of Vermont will use funding to shop, cook and prepare
dinners for the poor in Burlington and take the food to the Salvation Army to serve the meal.
* Champlain Valley Birthright ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will be used for advertising to increase community awareness of Birthright’s services and to making themselves known to any woman who is ambivalent about her pregnancy.
* Committee on Temporary Shelter ($1,500) Burlington
Funding is to support the COTS Daystation program, which serves as refuge from the streets for men and women experiencing homelessness and helps people stabilize their lives in times of crisis.
* Community Emergency Relief Volunteers ($4,000) Northfield Falls
Funding will be used to support the summer lunch program, increase the volume of food needed to accommodate a larger number of clients and support families with emergency funds as needed.
* Dismas of Vermont ($2,500) Winooski/Rutland/Burlington
Funding will be used to support camping trips that reconnect former prisoners with their children.
* Ecumenical Lunch Bunch Program ($500) Essex Junction
Funding will be used to provide nutritious lunches to needy children during their summer vacation.
* Faith in Action Northern Communities ($4,000) Cabot
Funding will support this agency’s work of trying to meet the needs of people who “fall through the cracks” by helping with transportation to medical appointments, providing respite care, assisting with food and helping with yard work and constructions projects.
* Good Beginnings of Central Vermont ($2,500) Montpelier
Funding will support the Post-Partum Angel Family Support Program and the Loving Arms Program that provide postpartum support and resources to the most vulnerable families in Central Vermont, with particular focus on families that are geographically isolated or that are affected by drug addiction.
* Good Samaritan Haven ($4,500) Barre
Funding will support the Emergency Shelter Program. This agency is the only homeless shelter in Central Vermont providing housing and support services for homeless people in the community.
* Grateful Hearts ($1,000) East Dorset
Funding will help provide healthy prepared meals to families in need by utilizing surplus food resources made available by local farms.
* Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity ($2,000) Williston
Funding will help build homes for low-income working families.
* Martha’s Kitchen ($4,000) St. Albans
Funding will help sustain expanded hours of operation to include weekends.
* Meals &Wheels of Greater Springfield ($1,800) Springfield
Funding will assist in meeting the rising cost of food and supply costs so the agency can continue to meet the demand of providing hot, nutritious meals to homebound seniors who cannot prepare or are unable to purchase food.
* Neighborhood Connections ($2,500) Londonderry
Funding will support the agency’s Community Health Initiative for Families and Seniors.
* North Central Vermont Recovery Center ($2,000) Morrisville
Funding will help sustain the Recovery Coach Program, which trains individuals to help guide and aid people in their recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.
* Northeast Kingdom Human Services Zero Suicide Initiative ($2,000) Newport
Funding will be used to support a new initiative to provide and implement training in the Zero Suicide approach for staff members.
* Spectrum Youth & Family Services ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will support the agency’s Basic Needs & A Stable Home programs, which provide an essential safety net for youth who are living on the streets, in cars, couch surfing, camping or otherwise unable to sustain stable, permanent housing.
* St. Ambrose and St. Peter parishes ($2,360) Bristol and Vergennes (a grant to each parish)
Funding will support free monthly community meals at the parishes for those who are struggling with finances.
* St. Brigid’s Kitchen ($1,250) Brattleboro
Funding will be used to continue to offer meals to those in need in the Brattleboro community.
* St. Brigid’s Pantry ($1,500) Brattleboro
Funding will support the Take-A- Bag Program and the holiday food program, which serve the less fortunate in the parish and in the Brattleboro area.
* Vergennes Rotary Club ($2,000) Vergennes
Funding will help provide needed afternoon snacks to children of the Boys and Girls Club of the greater Vergennes area.

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

Flynn Estate Scholarship Program

For more than 40 years Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has been supporting the educational and economic needs of children in Chittenden County with funds from the late John J. Flynn bequest.
“The Flynn Estate Scholarship Program is available to provide supplemental assistance to families who find themselves unable to meet their tuition commitment at a Catholic school in Chittenden County because of unforeseen circumstances,” noted Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “The funds are not intended to be planned budget tuition income for the schools.”
In February $40,997 was awarded to 16 families (23 students), and in May $19,022 was awarded to 11 families (16 students). Each year $60,000 is available for Vermont Catholic Charities to distribute.
Students who have received scholarships this year attend Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mater Christi School in Burlington, St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, Christ the King School in Burlington and St. Therese Digital Academy.
“The Flynn scholarships help families, tremendously, because they serve as a safety net … for families who with all good intentions contracted to pay a specific amount for the year and then an unforeseen hardship occurs and they are falling behind in their financial obligations,” commented Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, Rice principal. “It is a one-time appeal that Rice can make for a particular family. It is not something families themselves apply for, but an appeal made by the school for an identified during-the-year hardship. It is always a pleasure to inform the family; [the scholarship] is received with relief and thankfulness by the family.”
  • Published in Schools

Help with addiction recovery

Not everyone who drinks alcohol becomes an alcoholic, “but, we know that most alcoholics began as binge drinkers,” said Thomas Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. “Alcohol, or ethyl alcohol, is a drug that can result in social and psychological problems as well as chemical dependence if consumed to excess over time.”
He noted that ethyl alcohol is almost chemically identical to ether, which once was used in hospitals to sedate patients and prepare them for surgery. “Alcohol also sedates people, and if consumed to excess can render them unconscious just as ether was once used,” Mott said.
Because of the similarity of the effect of alcohol and other drugs on the body, people often simply use the term “drug addiction” or “drugs” when referring to alcohol and other substances that impact the brain.
Drug abuse is generally thought of in terms of the social problems it can cause. These may include arguments with family members, warning notices from an employer for being late or out sick from a hangover or forgetting other important dates. “When we talk about drug dependence, we not only see the common abuse problems, but, we also see signs of developing a physical tolerance to the drug and withdrawal symptoms when the body starts noticing the drug isn’t being delivered on time or in the amount it has grown accustomed to,” Mott explained. “Put another way, someone who is dependent not only wants it, but needs it to feel ‘normal.’”
The most commonly abused drugs in Vermont are alcohol, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, benzodiazepines and cocaine because they generally are readily available, cheap to buy and in the case of alcohol and nicotine, legal for adults. “With marijuana, there is the false belief that it is a harmless plant with no lasting impact on the body,” Mott said.
He encourages people who recognize they have a substance abuse problem to meet with an outpatient substance abuse counselor who can complete a thorough evaluation and make a professional recommendation about further treatment.   Outpatient counselors are well informed about inpatient rehab treatment centers, admission requirements, cost, insurance coverage and other critical factors that need to be considered to make an informed decision.
“Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and other 12- step programs are excellent programs, and I highly recommend them,” Mott said. “Their track record in helping people get sober and clean is outstanding. In my experience, they are vital to maintaining long-term sobriety.”
He also recommends Celebrate Recovery, a program that has helped thousands of people receive support and encouragement to live a life in recovery. 
Vermont Catholic Charities has three addiction experts on staff that have years of experience identifying, assessing and diagnosing and treating addiction on an outpatient basis. “We can answer questions, give suggestions and recommend smart choices for the person struggling with addiction and their family members,” Mott said.
For more information about addiction or mental health issues, call Vermont Catholic Charities at 1-877-250-4099 or 802-658-6111, ext. 1318.  All calls are confidential and private. 
Another option for help is to email Mott at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set up a convenient and private time to talk on the phone.
“The Catholic Charities counseling service is committed to reducing the impact of drug addiction and domestic violence in our communities,” he said. “Please don’t hesitate to call us. We are here to help.”

Responding to domestic violence

Abuse and violence have no place in marriage. Period.
That was the message of a presenter at the “Responding to Domestic Violence” workshop, Feb. 22, sponsored by the Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
“There is no way you can justify abuse and violence in a Catholic marriage,” emphasized Dr. Sharon O’Brien, director of Catholics For Family Peace at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “We are called to honor ourselves and protect our children.”
In “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral response to domestic violence against women, the United States bishops condemned the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. “A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love,” they wrote.
O’Brien emphasized the hope, help and healing the Church offers to victims of domestic violence.
That was illustrated by “Nicole,” a survivor of domestic violence who told the gathering of about 50 people, including priests and deacons, at Holy Family parish center in Essex Junction that she “never would have made it through” without the strength she found in her faith and the compassion of a priest.
Pregnant, unmarried, underemployed, physically and emotionally abused, “scared beyond anybody’s ability to understand” and often locked in a room, she ran when she had the opportunity.
When the priest saw her crying at the back of the church one day, he spoke with her and suggested she contact Vermont Catholic Charities for help. “If he had not done that, I would still be in an abusive relationship and my child would be abused,” she said.
At Catholic Charities, she learned of services and resources available to her.
During her presentation, O’Brien explained that domestic violence is behavior that is used to control an intimate partner through fear and intimidation. It can include emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, financial and spiritual abuse as well as stalking.
She encouraged her listeners to “recognize, respond and refer” when they encounter abuse, but she stressed the importance of the abused person having a plan for what she/he will do later, before leaving. She suggested faith communities pray for both the abused and abusers, support local resource providers and showcase local resources and programs (by, for example, posting helpful information in rest rooms).
O’Brien noted that both men and women are abused. Signs of abuse include name calling, insults, constant criticism, humiliation; forced isolation from family and friends; monitoring of how time is spent; control of finances and refusal to share money; threats of deportation or of reporting to a welfare agency; death threats; destruction of property, such as household furnishings; and forced sex.
“The Church is crystal clear: There is no place for abuse and violence in marriage,” O’Brien reiterated.
Tom Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities, addressed the gathering on “Catholic Charities Counseling Services for Victims and Perpetrators of Domestic Violence.”
Information about Vermont Catholic Charities, or call (Burlington) 877-250-4099 or (Rutland) 800-851-8379.

  • Published in Diocesan

Care regardless of ability to pay

Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. provides quality care in its four eldercare residences regardless of a resident’s ability to pay.
In 2015, 77 percent of the residents received Medicaid.
“Our mission is to provide residents with a safe, caring and homelike environment where they can enjoy a pleasant living experience rooted in Christian dignity,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “For private pay residents, if they convert to Medicaid, they can stay with us and in their same room.  This isn’t the case every facility. Some facilities require residents to move once they have moved from private pay to Medicaid.”
Michaud Memorial Manor in Derby Line has 33 beds; Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence in Rutland have a total of 107 beds including Loretto Home’s special care unit for residents assessed with higher physical and/or cognitive limitations. St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home in Burlington has 41 beds.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington provides rent-free use the four residential care homes totaling $1.35 million annually because “our social mission is to care for the sick, the poor, the elderly regardless of their ability to pay,” pointed out Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne. “As Catholics, we are all called to put our faith into action and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”
According to Jeanne Schmelzenbach, administrator of Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence, 83 percent of the residents cannot afford the private pay rate and are subsidized by Catholic Charities. “This number has been increasing steadily over the past several years.” It was about 75 percent in 2014.
“We pride ourselves on providing exceptional resident care to all residents regardless of their ability to pay,” said Mary Belanger, administrator of St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home. “All our residents are provided the care and services that they need to thrive.”
The homes’ commitment to the dignity of all people comes from the Gospel, Catholic Charities and founders of the homes.
“Our commitment comes from the belief that we as a Catholic institution, give back to the residents in need with an open heart,” Belanger added.
“Our goal is to provide a homelike environment where everyone can enjoy a pleasant living experience and receive the assistance they need,” Schmelzenbach said.
The residential care homes provide personal care, general supervision, medication management and nursing overview to persons unable to live wholly independently but are not in need of the level of care provided in nursing homes.
According to Anne Steinberg, administrator of Michaud Memorial Manor, because of Vermont Catholic Charities dedication to serving those in need, the home is fortunate to be able to care for an unusually high number of Medicaid recipients – about 70 percent at Michaud. “The rate of reimbursement that Medicaid provides is relatively low, making it pretty cost prohibitive for most homes to accept a large percentage of Medicaid residents,” she said. “I feel very blessed to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of opening our doors to all those in need, regardless of payer source.”
“The Medicaid reimbursement helps us care for residents with higher care needs without needing to transfer them to a nursing home,” Belanger said, adding that the reimbursement helps but it is not enough to care for all the people in need in the community.
The Catholic Charities-run homes are fully licensed by the Vermont Division of Licensing and Protection as Level III Residential Care Homes. 
Medicaid provides about one third of the actual cost of caring for a resident.
“Catholic Charities and fiscal management of the homes enable us to support this underserved segment of our population,” Schmelzenbach said.

2016 Advent Appeal underway

The 22nd Advent Appeal is taking place throughout the Diocese of Burlington to raise funds to help individuals and families with basic needs such as food, utilities fuel and back rent/security deposits throughout the year.
For Christmas, funds will be used to help families with fuel assistance, unexpected expenses, food cards and gift cards to help provide children with Christmas gifts.
“This is the only appeal Vermont Catholic Charities conducts, and it supports individuals and families during the Christmas season and year around. The ‘Season of Giving’ has no bounds for people in need,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
Last year a change was made to the appeal so that it would focus not only on helping people during the Christmas season but also provide additional funds for Vermont Catholic Charities’ year-round Emergency Aid Program. Throughout the year, Vermont Catholic Charities provides aid to hundreds of individuals and families who need immediate, short-term financial support.
“At Catholic Charities, we see the face of Christ in each and every person we encounter through the services we provide.  We couldn’t do this without the support of donors,” Pinard said, adding thanks to all those donors who have given in the past and those who will give this year. “Please know that although you don’t get see the relieved faces of clients helped, the individuals and families are grateful for your compassion.”
Last year the Advent Appeal raised $85,252, and it is hoped that the collection will exceed that this year.
During the Christmas season, support was given to 473 individuals/families and 445 children. This included supporting 56 requests from parishes.
In 2015, the Vermont Catholic Charities’ Emergency Aid program served more than 938 individuals and 591 children throughout the state.
“Electricity and food are such everyday needs, and when you don’t’ have them, your world feels upside down,” an emergency aid recipient said. “Thank you for helping my world stay upright.”
The geographic reach of the Emergency Aid Program includes households in all 14 Vermont counties encompassing 82 cities/towns. The top three emergency aid categories for clients were back rent/security deposits, electricity and fuel/heat.
“The population benefitting from emergency aid included the unemployed, the underemployed, those who have faced unexpected crises in their lives and those needing emotional support,” Pinard said.
“I am a single parent on disability with my four children living with me,” one Advent Appeal recipient said. “It has been a little bit of a struggle this year. I’m so appreciative with what you are doing to help me.”
“Pope Francis has invited us to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy through service and acts of charity to those in need,” Pinard said. “Supporting the Advent Appeal is one way for people to show that they are a visible sign of God’s love and mercy to Vermonters in need. They are continuing to answer the call to serve others. This financial assistance supports Corporal Works of Mercy – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless.”
The deadline for contributing to this year’s Annual Appeal is Dec. 31, but any donations received after that date are greatly appreciated as the emergency aid program provides year-round support.
To donate, send a check to Vermont Catholic Charities, Advent Appeal, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT  05401 or give online at vermontcatholic.org/adventappeal.
  • Published in Diocesan
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