Diocesan Ministries Keep On Keeping On
Bishop Malloy joins St. Elizabeth volunteers to distribute food to those who need it in Rockford
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
April 30, 2020
Serving those most in need has never been more important than in this time of shuttered businesses, churches and gathering places. 
St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center in southwest Rockford has remained active but in a new way. And during the state’s stay at home order, the center got a little help from Bishop David Malloy.
St. Elizabeth’s Program Director Terri Hill says, “The needs are still here and so are we.” 
With a group of dedicated volunteers and staff, the food program has been up and running. However, according to Catholic Charities Director Patrick Winn, the program has had to shift the way it operates to keep workers and recipients safe from spreading the coronavirus. 
Instead of the “shopping experience” begun at the center three years ago, the method of food distribution has shifted to pre-packaged food boxes. The boxed allocations contain three to four days of food for approximately 100 recipients at each distribution. 
Hill says she has seen new families coming for food since the stay at home order in Illinois and thankfully, she adds, they have been able to meet the need.
Bishop Malloy was among the volunteers April 23 when two trucks of commodities arrived from the Illinois Food Bank. These trucks brought meat, eggs and dairy items which would be distributed along with pre-packed boxes of canned foods, bread and bags of produce. 
Hill took Bishop Malloy on a walk through the center to show him the new normal there. 
Rooms that usually would be used for dining and classes have been re-arranged so food can be safely packaged and stored. 
Other rooms at the center are being deep cleaned along with all the fixtures and furnishings. 
Bishop Malloy also stepped outside to see the distribution lines marked with tape on the ground to assure social distance while patrons waited for their groceries. 
As distribution neared, the center turned into a flurry of activity with tables and tent tops set outside to ease the flow, pallets of boxes and carts of milk all stationed in place. 
Bishop Malloy walked out to greet the patrons and volunteers with a prayer and then took his station inside to distribute meat and eggs. 
Hill said some volunteers have had to stay away due to health concerns but overall operations at St. Elizabeth’s have gone on. 
Food donations have been down slightly but “people are still thinking of us,” she said. 
During Bishop Malloy’s visit, a woman arrived from Chicago with a truck full of canned goods. Hill said the woman heard about the center and decided to “take a drive to help out.” 
“People are so good,” Hill said. 
In addition to the food distribution, St. Elizabeth Center is also a school distribution site for books, computers and other assorted necessities. 
Other Charities’ programs up and running
Winn said the Refugee Resettlement program continues to service refugees who have arrived in the last five months. 
“Several of the recent arrivals have participated in our sewing classes and are making masks for our other clients, staff and volunteers,” he said. 
“We also purchased laptops for the nine student arrivals in late March so they could begin learning even though there’s no school,” he added. 
Winn said the school counseling program, coordinating with the Catholic schools in Rockford, assists students, parents and faculty during the additional stress brought on by adapting to having kids at home every day. 
Catholic Charities has also been holding HIPPA-compliant teleconferencing to continue counseling for its community, sliding-scale clients.
Catholic Charities emergency assistance program continues to accept referrals from 2-1-1 calls and is meeting other short-term, modest needs as feasible, with referrals from St. Vincent de Paul Society parish groups (called conferences) as well as requests directly from parishes.
Another important ministry, the Long-term Care Ombudsman program, is busy coping with residents and staffs at nursing homes. 
“This is probably the most dramatic shift in service since personal contact with residents is no longer allowed. We’re being creative,” Winn said.
Winn told The Observer that Catholic Charities also continues to support the efforts of local agencies to help survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. 
He said that food and hygiene materials are among the items being made accessible to direct providers. 
“Every one of our programs remains up and running, and certainly struggling to adapt,” Winn said. 
“The ability to meet food needs remains the biggest issue, but there are a lot of generous supporters from the private sector,” he added.
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