The turmoil of 2020 brings to mind a passage from the Book of 1 Peter:
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold.” — 1 Peter 1:7
Through the trials brought about by a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, our faith in our community—and its faith in us—stayed genuine.
For nearly 80 years, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada has served our region’s most vulnerable individuals and families. We help people of all cultures and beliefs rise out of poverty and overcome the barriers to self-sufficiency. We do this through a broad range of services, including food resources, case management, immigration assistance, family development, and a residential program. With arms open wide, our services extend across Northern Nevada, including Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, Storey, Washoe, and White Pine.
While the COVID-19 pandemic threatened how we traditionally provided our services, we responded quickly by shifting our programs to address the safety of our staff, volunteers, and clients while making sure that we continued to meet our clients’ needs. Here are some of the many ways Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada continued to fulfill our mission in 2020:
St. Vincent’s Dining Room
In spring 2020, we began distributing to-go meals in place of served meals and increased our services to seven days a week from six. In addition to offering to-go meals on our main campus, we added to-go meal deliveries to the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality and the City of Reno’s temporary shelter. We are now serving more than 1,000 meals a day to Reno’s most vulnerable individuals.
St. Vincent’s Food Pantry
With an $800,000 in CARES Act Funding to increase accessibility to food from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, we bought food from local farmers, ranchers, and producers to supplement our pantry boxes. As a result, we increased the number of pop-up pantries we support in urban, rural, frontier, and tribal communities, including 33 pantries in seven counties from Washoe to White Pine. In December 2020 alone, we served more than 10,000 people through these mobile pantries. Currently, Catholic Charities distributes up to 350 food boxes per day, five days a week, from our main campus. The grant continues to offer tremendous support to the work we do year-round, including the fall and winter when a record number of people availed themselves to the Feeding Families holiday food program.
St. Vincent’s Resource Hub
While many Catholic Charities’ services transitioned to become virtual or distanced outside, we added senior home deliveries for those who were immune-compromised or afraid to leave their homes. During each delivery, a benefits enrollment case manager can drop off forms, provide a well check, and bring food and other supplies.
The need for rental assistance increased dramatically as many families faced eviction. Through grants from the City of Reno, we continued to administer two programs to support homelessness prevention: River Grant and Continuum of Care. The River Grant ensures that individuals previously diagnosed with severe mental illness receive access to housing, treatment, and recovery support services. For the Northern Nevada Continuum of Care grant, Catholic Charities is the lead agency for the ongoing management of the coordinated entry system and, as such, maintains the community queue in the homeless management information system and provides appropriate referrals to participating housing programs.
With a $579,000 CARES Act grant from Women, Infants, and Children, we provided grocery shopping and home delivery to WIC recipients, including supporting any additional emergency needs for diapers, formula, car seats, and other childcare necessities. Families from Reno to Elko participate in this service, and the program grew from 24 families at the beginning of 2020 to 250 by the end of the year.
The new Family Development Program continued to develop relationships with pregnant and/or parenting families to help them become self-sustainable. By meeting these families’ most basic needs, we’ve built a relationship of trust. Our social workers use evidence-based practices and adhere to the principles of positive family development and core competencies. With our trained and caring staff’s guidance, these clients learn new positive parenting skills, further their education, establish an income, and find a safe, stable community of support. Each parent or family receives a personalized plan for sustainability.
Catholic Charities Immigration Assistance Program provides high quality and affordable or pro-bono legal immigration services for foreign-born individuals and their families who seek to obtain or extend lawful immigration status or citizenship in the United States. We provide consultations to determine eligibility and help individuals understand the immigration law and their rights. Through a private foundation, we received funds to distribute $300 debit cards to those impacted by COVID-19 and ineligible for federal support. We spent the first round of funding in 30 days to help 220 families. We recently received another round of funding to address our growing waiting list and expect to help 30 more families. Despite the challenges of COVID, several of our IAP clients became citizens in 2020.
Crossroads Sober Living
Through a partnership with Washoe County Human Services Agency, we provided housing, supportive living arrangements, and drug and alcohol counseling for men battling addiction and transitioning out of homelessness. Catholic Charities adapted to a 30 percent funding reduction due to COVID-19. Many of these individuals in the Crossroads program volunteer with Catholic Charities as part of their rehabilitation, and some become full-time staff after they have successfully graduated from the program.
To ensure the kids in our community still had some holiday joy, we pivoted our Operation Easter Basket and Stocking Stuffer events from an in-person gathering to a distanced pick-up system. Our annual gala evolved from a dinner to the Raise the Roof event, where local DJ JJ Christy spent a very hot August night atop Dolan Toyota to raise funds for our programs.
Throughout 2020 we adapted our services to meet the ever-changing pandemic. But time and again, we were surrounded by people willing to help in whatever way they could. Our faith in our community's generosity and kindness remains strong, and we know that although trials may test all of us, we will come through it stronger together.