By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
Whether it’s been assisting with utilities, providing food or delivering medicine, Catholic Social Services and its countless ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Mobile are continuing to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CSS has five offices located throughout the southern half of Alabama and helps all in need, regardless if they are Catholic or not. During this crisis, CSS Executive Director Marilyn King said the biggest request was for utility assistance.
Between March 18-April 1, King said CSS centers has received 807 requests for utility help.
“We have seen an overwhelming request in all five offices for utility assistance,” King said. “Our priority for providing utility assistance is for those persons who have been laid off from work or had their hours reduced.”
Offices have continued to help people with food and household items. The CSS Dothan office called its elderly and hosted a drive-through food pickup. CSS Baldwin County continues to offer “Senior Bags,” which include food, hygiene and household items that seniors can receive monthly.
King said food is given for those in need. Case workers assess need by phone and arrange a pickup time. In addition to purchasing food from their local food bank, King and CSS Director of Emergency Assistance Dreama Schofield buy food from grocery stores daily to keep its pantry stocked.
King said what’s especially important during these times is a personal touch. Many, especially seniors, are concerned about the pandemic.
Staff at St. Margaret’s Services for the Elderly in Montgomery and St. Teresa of Calcutta Senior Ministries in Mobile together serve more than 275 seniors and over the past few weeks CSS case workers searched their database of clients to determine their needs.
“The checking on clients with the personal touch was comforting to them,” King said. “They know we care and we serve as a point of contact for helping them when they need it and helping them to negotiate other service systems. Because of our relationship and long standing reputation in the community of helping the poor, they trust us.”
The personal touch also includes being a sounding board. King said she recently received a call from someone who planned to leave money in a will for CSS.
“The thought of anxiety (the person had) over the unknown brought me to tears,” King said. “We talked about our faith in God and how in the darkness we need to keep our minds on our loving Father, hoping it will be His will to bring us through this or bring us to Him.”
Other ministries of CSS people may be interested during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Counseling – In-house counseling is on hold, but phone counseling is available.
Pregnancy testing – While some pregnancy centers have closed or limited hours, CSS is available to do pregnancy testing. Clients can continue to work on “Earn While You Learn” parenting education online to earn “Mommy Bucks” which can be redeemed for baby items and necessities.
Adoption – Despite the danger of being in a hospital setting, King said CSS’s adoption staff has made trips to local hospitals when birthmothers need to work with someone.
Refugee Resettlement – Work continues. King said a family recently arrived from Congo and CSS staff are coordinating all of the regular activities, health screening, applying for Social Security cards and other necessities.