Catholic Charities provides local pandemic support

Father Jim Betzen, C.PP.S.
Alicia Olivares, secretary for St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, prays for people in Wapello County who are battling or have died from COVID-19.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Seven parishes that participate in the Hispanic Ministry Leadership group received $11,000 collectively in COVID-19 relief grant funds from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Davenport to respond to urgent needs during the pandemic.

“We have been able to help people pay their bills. I had a lady come in Tuesday (Aug. 18) and she told me she had COVID twice and couldn’t work. When I said we would cover the bill, she was so grateful,” said Father Guillermo Trevino Jr., referring to St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty, where he serves as parochial vicar. He delivered take-out food to the porch of another family in town suffering from COVID-19. The Catholic Charities money made the assistance to both households possible.

“The money was distributed not exclusively for those from the Hispanic community, but anyone determined to be in great need,” said Kent Ferris, director of the Social Action Office and Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport. “The amount per parish was not enough to cover all anticipated unmet needs. For a few individuals and families, it hopefully alleviated a little of the pain until other resources could be accessed.”


The diocesan Catholic Charities later distributed $15,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to eight nonprofits with whom it has a working relationship, Ferris said. Some households in Clinton struggling to pay bills during the pandemic had their burden lightened because of Catholic Charities’ assistance.

“We are so grateful and appreciative of the continued support we receive from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Davenport,” said Regan Michael­sen, executive director of Information, Referral & Assistance Services in Clinton. The agency received $1,500 in June to assist households affected by the pandemic with rent and utility assistance. “Our requests for assistance have grown exponentially, and we truly could not continue to meet needs without support like we receive from Catholic Charities,” Michaelsen said.

Other nonprofits that received Catholic Charities COVID-19 relief funds: Helping Hands, Knoxville; Iowa WINS, Mount Pleasant; Project Renewal, Davenport; Diversity Center, Muscatine; Iowa City Catholic Worker House, Iowa City; Transitions DMC, Burlington; and Carson Chin Baptist Church, Columbus Junction.

The diocesan Social Action Office developed a working relationship with the Chin Baptist community in refugee resettlement and interfaith efforts in Columbus Junction, Ferris said. “I think Pastor Benjamin Sang Bawi was completely surprised by our providing relief funds to his congregation. He was equally grateful for the follow-up conversation I had with him when I asked for the first names of his congregants affected by COVID-19, in order that our group could pray for them.”

Grants from Catholic Charities USA made the funding from the diocesan Catholic Charities agency possible. “They notified us of the grant opportunity,” Ferris said. The national nonprofit even streamlined the grant process to expedite efforts to respond to emergency needs, he said.

“Catholic Charities agencies distributed nearly $400 million in emergency COVID-19 assistance to people across the United States and the U.S. Territories during the past four months,” Sister Donna Markham, who leads Catholic Charities USA, said in an Aug. 3 news release. “Emergency help consists primarily of food, rental assistance, personal protective equipment, baby supplies and emergency quarantine housing,” she said. The “generosity of corporate donors, foundations, and individuals has been overwhelming.”

Ferris expressed gratitude for Catholic Charities USA as well as for local parishes and parishioners in the Diocese of Davenport “who have been incredibly generous in their efforts to assist people struggling because of the pandemic. I am convinced that many have not allowed social distancing to keep them from providing spiritual and instrumental services to neighbors in great need.”

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1 thought on “Catholic Charities provides local pandemic support

  1. My name is Kathy Ross. I am 61 yrs.old. My boyfriend is Jeff and he is 51yrs old almost 52. We have been together for over 14 yrs and have been homeless for over two months. Jeff lost his job right before Covid hit. He works in the fast food industry and he hasn’t found a job, even looking into other professions. I was waiting for a disability hearing which would have been within a year or so
    Because of Covid and getting evicted I don’t even know if or when it is because I have no where to get mail. We are currently at a motel in Muscatine, thanks to the help of a stranger, but Jeff doesn’t get enough in unemployment for us to stay here. He has used up almost everything, we don’t even have enough money for food. And we don’t have a car to get around. We also have a storage unit with all our belongings that we can’t afford. I am writing to ask if there is anything you can do to help us. We have so many things against us. Plus I have respiratory problems and am scared to death of going to the shelter, which everyplace I ask just tells me to go there. And they won’t let Jeff and I stay together because we aren’t married. I also have depression which has gotten worse. Please let me know if there is anything you can do or know of anyone who might be able to help. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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