Catholic Charities Care in Crisis
By Patrick Winn
Catholic Charities has long provided assistance to individuals in need of some minimal or transitional support. We have been guided by basic principles in determining the level at which to assist. 
To a certain degree, we have typically been able to assist with the last $50 to $100 needed. When this level was first decided upon decades ago, it was to operate within the very limited funds available to the agency so that at least some level of help could be included to resolve a personal emergency. Utilities, rent, and bus tickets to job interviews or medical appointments were common requests for assistance.
Back then, Robert Lupton had not yet written “Toxic Charity.” His articulation of need — and response to need — fit Catholic Charities’ philosophy, and we have found it useful as a reminder as we help respond to the COVID-19 crisis. In doing so, we remember our diocese’s active response to the Fairdale tornado’s destruction five years ago, and the resulting personal emergencies we helped meet.
As Lupton articulates the role of charitable organizations, important results emerge. Without question, we are in an emergency. Because of others’ generosity, we are able to use our Emergency Assistance Program to focus and direct emergency assistance to a true, emergency situation.
Donations from community foundations, United Ways, charitable trusts, corporate foundations and generous individual donors will allow us to direct nearly $100,000 to those who have lost jobs and incurred uninsured medical expenses. 
We have enabled parents and children to eat, and pay rents, mortgages and utilities that are verifiably delinquent as a result of the pandemic.
The Diocese of Rockford covers 11 counties and Catholic Charities has given aid in most of them, paying heed to Lupton’s sage advice that one-way giving be limited to emergency situations. 
It’s easy to identify emergencies in the wake of a tornado or fire or flood; it’s tougher when fighting an essentially invisible but deadly virus. And we have found that a willingness to listen, even when financial assistance may not be sufficient for the long-term, can bring a measure of peace in uncertain times.
Whatever the federal government decides to do next in terms of further financial relief, it is a privilege for us to work with those in need. 
We can’t print money but we can feed the poor, give comfort and counsel to those who are struggling as new parents or residents of nursing homes, and alleviate the pain of domestic violence. This pandemic may not usher in the next historical or medical era, but to those who need us now, we must remember to treat people with compassion, dignity and respect during difficult times. 
To those whose generosity allows us to help, thank you. We pledge to be good stewards of your contributions and worthy of your faith in us.