Catholic Charities Reviews Efforts, Seeks Volunteers
January 25, 2018
ROCKFORD—Changing needs and increased demands, coupled with increasing donations and additional volunteers made 2017 a notable year for Catholic Charities in the Rockford Diocese.
Patrick Winn, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, says several areas of service were busy in 2017. 
“School and community counselors helped parents, faculties and students deal with family suicides and schoolmate deaths; with parental divorce and deportation; with grief after job loss and recent widowhood,” he said. Whether to residents of cities in the diocese, students, or parishioners in need, “Counselors brought professional, individual disciplines and expertise to people who were hurting,” he said.
Two more programs — Adoptions and Adolescent Outreach — benefited from area United Ways and other benefactors.
The programs served families “in crisis and in joy,” he said. Case management services helped pregnant teens “with demanding yet unconditional love and respect,” while adopting parents “found professional services throughout the daunting process of search, placement and courtroom stress.”
Refugee assistance has been buffeted by government actions. 
“Mistrust abounds in some areas,” Winn says, “but our program enjoyed practical support that helped refugees secure employment and homes.”
Half of the refugee families served in the diocese own homes after five years of living in the diocese, he explained.
And more than 90 percent of employment-eligible adults have jobs within 120 days of arriving. 
A new program to help women refugees started in 2017 when “donors equipped our sewing training classroom,” Winn said. 
Refugees were also helped by volunteers who taught English as a second language. Medical and dental professionals treated victims of torture and persecution. 
“Music returned to the lives of young people torn from their homeland,” through the efforts of volunteers, Winn said.
Among programs seeing greater need in 2017 and beyond is the Ombudsman program. 
Charities staff and volunteers throughout the diocese visit residents — many of them elderly — of long-term care facilities to ensure their treatment is appropriate and their surroundings, safe.
In June 2017, program volunteers and staff had a chance to take part in training with Jamie Freschi, the Illinois long-term care ombudsman, who came from Springfield with an update on state-level program changes being made in response to new federal rules last year.
Winn is especially seeking new volunteers for this program in 2018.
— Sharon Boehlefeld, features editor