COVID and Charities
By Patrick Winn
Every aspect of Catholic Charities has been affected by Covid-19. Every program also proved effective.
St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center in Rockford suspended child care programs for before- and after-school, since there was no school. When one faithful volunteer in the adult services building tested positive for the virus, we temporarily suspended food service. We had three immediate concerns: 1) the health of the volunteer (he’s fine, thanks for asking); 2) the health of all other volunteers, staff and guests; and, 3) determining how to reopen. We accomplished all three, with a new program that also serves the children whose parents rely on us for their children’s nutritional health.
Long-Term Care Ombudsmen shifted from on-site, in-person contact with nursing home residents to walk-up window visits with residents, virtual visits via phone and teleconferencing. The heartbreaking losses occurring in some facilities made all these alternatives distant second place choices for personal attention and advocacy. We need to be virtually and substantively aggressive in our service.
Counseling professionals reached out to current and prospective clients to offer remote services. Not perfect or preferred, but effective in many cases. Thus, counselors were available in areas of the diocese that otherwise are challenging for marriage counseling, grief support and follow up school counseling.
Immigration Legal Services saw little impact on their case load with DACA cases pending and now continuing after the Supreme Court’s recent decision. Even with offices temporarily closing because of an exposure to someone who tested positive, the staff continued to maintain informational confidentiality as they worked remotely to offer some level of security to an uncertain and population.
Refugee Resettlement has been in a state of effective instability for more than three years. The State Department and the Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to resettle refugees with us, and diocesan communities remain welcoming. Few of our current and former refugees suffered job loss and recent arrivals sewed face masks for other programs’ clients and volunteers. Their participation helped both them and strangers.
Efforts around the diocese to address and combat the evils of domestic violence and human trafficking continued as Catholic Charities supported various programs in Winnebago, Boone, and McHenry counties focused on prevention, prosecution, and partnerships. The sad increase in reported incidents during the shelter-in-place advisories lent renewed focus on this continuing legal, economic and moral crisis. Virtual responses are typically inadequate to physical violence. 
Our Adolescent Outreach through school counseling and individual casework, continued to reinforce the resiliency of new, too-early parents. Since domestic violence is an early predictor of criminal justice involvement in later life, we join with others in making environments safer and parents healthier when dealing with stress, unemployment, poverty and basic life needs. 
We had to suspend our developing and successful Project H.I.R.E. programs in Rockford and Aurora. We will jump back into the shallow jobs pool as soon as we see the remotest possibility of again placing unemployed persons back into meaningful work. 
Next month’s column will highlight the donations we’ve received and the work we’ve accomplished because of others’ generosity to support our Emergency Assistance Program. Our long-established program works within the structure of the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program to assist those in need.