Katrina Corbett is the face of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. in Rutland.

The administrative assistant in the Scale Avenue office is one to smile easily, but that smile quickly turns to a look of empathy as she helps those who come in for some kind of assistance or just a kind word or listening presence.

“It’s not about what they come in for, it’s what they leave with,” Corbett said.

What everyone leaves with is a boost from a kind person who is friendly and easy to talk with, doesn’t judge people and meets them where they are. She might give them a cup of coffee or a mug of noodle soup, just to help them warm up on a cold day. “It’s nice for them to know someone cares,” she said.

Vermont Catholic Charities has served the Rutland community since 1961. “We support individuals and families who worry about how they are going to meet their most basic needs,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director. “As emergency aid coordinator, Katrina shows every client dignity and respect and is a supportive listener. She engages with other community agencies to ensure clients can access all resources available.”

In addition to her outreach through Vermont Catholic Charities, Corbett, of Benson, serves the Rutland-area community as a volunteer cook at the Rutland Dismas House, helps with the annual Mount St. Joseph Academy Project Help, is a member of the Rutland Catholic Community Committee and volunteers to chair the Feed the Freezer program through BROC Community Action.

“People ask me why the Church helps people. I reply, ‘Because we are Catholic.’ That is part of our mission,” Corbett said.

As a child growing up in Virginia, Corbett experienced some dark times when her family needed help. “I’ve been without lights, without heat, without food. So I get it,” she said of her empathy toward people in need. “I get that people are down and out, and I treat them with respect.”

A networker and collaborator, she also shows them hospitality and tries to make the office a festive place, like adding holiday decorations. She often serves cookies and coffee to people who go to the office to pick up the help they receive from the annual Advent Appeal.

“Everybody started out as somebody’s baby, and life molded them, and sometimes life wasn’t charitable to them,” she said.

So she tries to help in any way she can, even finding healthy recipes for a woman caring for her children in a motel room with only a microwave for cooking.

Before working for Vermont Catholic Charities, Corbett worked for the Vermont Council on Aging as a case manager and before that had various positions at nursing homes.

She and Vermont Catholic Charities social worker Bea Wells — the only other person at the Rutland office — collaborate with many of the organizations in the city and attend community forums on social services, making connections. “We both love to cook and have a connection to Dismas House. … We have a unique dynamic as we have known each other for 30-plus years and work well together,” she said. “We will buy the food, prepare the food, finish the dishes at the Dismas kitchen and share a meal with the residents there as well. Good fellowship, good food — paying it forward is always a good thing.”

Corbett, raised as Methodist, and her husband, Larry, who was raised in the Congregational Church, became members of the Catholic Church after their only child, Olivia — now a college student — was baptized and received into the Church just before her 2013 graduation from Christ the King School in Rutland.

“I’ve embraced the faith totally,” said the parishioner of Christ the King Parish. “The Catholic Church helps people, and we care,” she said. “I am just a spokesperson. This is not about Katrina, it’s about the Church.”

—Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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