Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties relies heavily on donations to support our Emergency Assistance Program. With the ongoing economic crisis being played out across the nation and state, rural Columbia and Greene Counties have been particularly hard hit. Requests to our Agency for emergency food and financial assistance continue to increase, particularly from working families and senior citizens. Following are some of their stories…(names have been changed)
Dorothy was diagnosed with a potentially fatal blood disorder. She was sick for a long time, experimenting with different medical treatments. After a long fight to keep herself healthy and overcome the sickness within her body, she was given the news from her doctor that she was cured. She overcame it all and was back in good health. The bad news was that she now found herself in debt due to all of these medical expenses. On top of that, she now also found herself providing for her own three children, their children, and now her two nieces after her sister recently passed away. Dorothy quickly felt as though she were sinking in debt. She was able to find some assistance from DSS, but she was still struggling with an electric bill she’d fallen behind on while she was sick. In fear that she couldn’t get her head above water on her own, she asked Catholic Charities for help. Catholic Charities heard Dorothy’s amazing story of overcoming something so horrible just be dragged back down, they were able to find a way to help Dorothy. A payment plan was arranged for Dorothy after a down payment by Catholic Charities. The tears flowed freely from Dorothy as she hugged the staff person who brought her this good news. She knew that the seven children she cared for wouldn’t be without electricity. Dorothy said at that moment she knew she had someone watching over her and thanked the staff of Catholic Charities profusely. Dorothy still makes sure to pop in at the office and update us with how she is doing.
Elanor was a single mom living with her teenage daughter. Elanor worked long hours at her previous job but now found herself unemployed. After being let go from her position she discovered that a client had bedbugs which she was not made aware of at the time she was requested to provide service. A few short weeks later she discovered symptoms consistent with those of someone with bedbugs in their residence. She didn’t have the money to afford all of her bills and the cost of an exterminator now that she was out of work. As she was desperately searching for work she was now overcome with this large problem at home. Elanor went all over Columbia County searching for anyone who could help her situation. Worried about her daughter’s well-being and exhausted by her search for help, she finally found herself at Catholic Charities pleading for assistance. Although unable to assist with the employment of an exterminator, Catholic Charities was able to buy Elanor the supplies needed to rid her home of bedbugs on her own. The result was a bedbug free home for her and her daughter.
A senior citizen taking care of her handicapped son, Susan was just barely making ends meet. Because she was disabled long ago due to a permanent leg injury, she was living on her social security alone. She was only able to pay her monthly bills and give her son a little extra to pick up some groceries here and there each month. Although not an ideal situation, as she explained to the staff of Catholic Charities, she was making it work. That is, until her stove stopped working probably. First to go were the two back burners. Then the oven itself stopped working. Last to go were the left then right front burners. For Susan this caused concerns as she was unable to eat many things due to her poor health. Her son would cook the few things he was able in the microwave, but Susan began getting sick. Her son was first to contact Catholic Charities on her behalf. He didn’t know what else to do for his mother. Catholic Charities was able to help their situation when her son came across a stove at a lower cost than usual. The arrangement was made for the shipping and installation for the family of two. Susan burst into tears over the phone when she heard that she would finally receive the help she could find no where else. She would finally be able to eat without getting sick and she wouldn’t have to worry about trying to afford the stove all by herself. She felt her prayers had been answered and couldn’t thank the staff of Catholic Charities enough for all of their help.
Charles was used to living on his own, not having to care for anyone else until one day he received custody of his teenage granddaughter after the passing of his own daughter. In his current situation, Charles was not yet receiving child support for caring for his granddaughter. Without this extra income to make up for having an extra person in the house he was still able to make his current living situations work, however his home didn’t have enough room to provide his granddaughter with any privacy. All Charles had to offer her was a mattress in his living room. A social worker asked Charles how he planned to resolve this current issue of space. Charles found an apartment that he could afford; he just needed help with the security. He didn’t know where to begin with and tried several places for help. That was when the social worker recommended he contact Catholic Charities. The staff of Catholic Charities was able to arrange an agreement with the new landlord providing a portion of the security with Charles paying off the rest in smaller portions. Charles was able to sign his new lease. Within a month, Charles was in his new apartment. Both Charles and his granddaughter were excited to have their privacy and dignity once again.

A single senior citizen asked for help with heat. Oil not only provided heat for her home but also for hot water. With very little income and HEAP having closed on March 15th, the individual came to Catholic Charities for help. A few weeks later we received a card in the mail that read “Thank you for restoring my dignity and self-respect.”

A father of three called our offices and explained that he needed help with his rent. He had been out of work for a while and just recently started working again. He was discussing a payment deal with his landlord but needed to show good faith with an initial payment for the arrangement to be accepted. $200 from the Emergency Assistance Program provided the leverage needed as the father climbed the road back to self-sufficiency.

A mother recently began working after a long spell of unemployment. She was in the position for only two weeks when her public assistance was terminated. This did not allow for her to fully pay her past bills to be self supporting with her current earnings. The Emergency Assistance Program was able to provide funds for rent.

A single woman asked for help with her utility bill. Her only source of income is Social Security Disability. In the month prior she had to replace her furnace, which depleted funds. She needed $260.67 to get back on the utility payment plan. A week later we received a thank you card. “To all the staff at Catholic Charities. Thank you so much for helping me in my time of need. I can only hope that someday soon I can pay it forwardJ” was written inside of it.

A wife and mother supported by Social Security Insurance and a small amount from her husband was in a crisis. Her two sons suffered from cystic fibrosis and she lost her one to the illness. Prior to her son’s passing, he was very sick and spent weeks at a time in the hospital, with Mom right beside him the entire time. Other bills fell behind in payment and the family was struggling to make amends. She was beginning a new job and needed help with her mortgage so she would not be at risk of losing the family home as she began to bring more funds into the coffers.


Faced with the responsibility of caring for her two grandchildren, Betty is struggling with numerous family issues. Financial hardships made it impossible for her to overcome many barriers and were preventing her from focusing on the emotional and educational needs of her grandchildren. Betty and her family live in a rural part of Greene County, and the lack of transportation was a cause for many problems. Betty was unable to get her son to the preschool bus pick-up site so he could not attend school; she was unable to get to the grocery store, children’s appointments, doctor’s appointments, etc. Betty wants to work, attend church, and seek support in her community, but without transportation this was all out of her reach. She is receiving services from another Agency program, so an interagency referral was made to the Emergency Assistance Program to help Betty “get over the hump.” Catholic Charities was able to assist Betty with motor vehicle fees for her vehicle’s title, license renewal and registration costs. Additional financial help was provided for her to buy groceries, put fuel in her vehicle and wash her laundry. This monetary support was small in comparison to the benefits to Betty and her family’s quality of life. Betty broke down and cried, overwhelmed with emotion, so thankful and grateful for the help… [Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties] “is a gift from God.”


Mary, a forty-something single woman with multiple disabilities, was still grieving the loss of her elderly mother when her mother’s house, now hers, began to literally fall down around her. Receiving minimal assistance from Department of Social Services to supplement her disability income, she was barely able to make ends meet on a daily basis. As one would expect, things only got worse. Mary’s water bill, tax bill and several other bills arrived all within days of each other. Begging and borrowing from friends and family, Mary was able to secure funds to satisfy most of her debts. Feeling a small sense of relief she proceeded with the final steps of making arrangements for energy efficient renovations to begin on her newly inherited house. This construction work was to be paid for through a grant which she worked long and hard at applying for and completing many steps to gain approval. Only a few days prior to the renovations start date, Mary learned that she needed to supply a large dumpster for the construction crew to dispose of the debris from preparatory demolition. Distraught, hopeless, and emotionally exhausted, Mary learned about Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties’ Emergency Assistance through a friend who also happens to be an employee of the Agency. Mary immediately called and made an appointment to speak with a staff person to apply for assistance. With more than enough paperwork in hand, Mary applied and received approval for assistance the very next day. The Catholic Charities’ staff member spent a couple hours with Mary, listening to her story, helping her organize some of her paperwork, and taking the time to work out all of the details before Mary left the office that same day. Mary clearly was relieved and grateful for the help, and she stated with a smile that despite her disabilities, she was leaving the Agency with a ‘spring in her step.’


A single dad of two teenage daughters, Jack had been struggling with unemployment and under-employment for quite some time. Although the income would be minimum wage, he was glad to accept a job delivering newspapers which was at least a consistent, regular schedule. Jack came to Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties with great concern regarding several financial issues. First and foremost, his car insurance was due the day before he was to begin work. A vehicle to deliver newspapers is a “must” and Jack started to panic because he knew that he would not receive a paycheck for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, his insurance payment installment was a relatively small sum and the Agency was easily able to approve payment. While listening to Jack’s financial woes, it was also discovered that he had found an apartment to rent at nearly half the cost of his current apartment, however, he did not have the first month’s rent and security to change his residence and thereby lower his monthly expenses to more manageable levels. Further review of Jack’s situation and the long term benefits for him and his family by helping him with housing costs, it was decided that Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties would approve assistance beyond our maximum allowance and provide further financial support for Jack to secure this new, cheaper place of residence. Jack found it hard to believe that such help would be offered to him and his family, and he couldn’t thank Catholic Charities enough for helping him get back, and stay on his feet.  


The staff person answering the phones at Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties said she could hear the panic in Stewart’s voice when he called for information about where he could get help to pay for a fuel pump for his car so that his wife could get to work. He stated that it had been several days and his wife, who was lucky enough to have gotten a job, was in jeopardy of losing it due to no transportation. He and his wife had both lost their jobs nearly a year ago and along with their 3 children, had been living on unemployment and their savings until such funds recently ran out. Stewart provided the necessary paperwork and had researched the costs and details of purchasing this auto part at NAPA. He added that he could easily do the mechanical work on the vehicle, but just needed the help in buying the part. Approval for a check to NAPA in the exact amount was given and the check was cut. Subsequently there was a terrible snow storm and Stewart, panicked once again, called and said he couldn’t get to the Agency before closing to pick up the check. Catholic Charities’ staff pulled together, called NAPA and arranged for a staff member to drop the check off to NAPA on her way home. They called Stewart then to let him know that he could go directly to NAPA and pick up the part later that evening. Stewart expressed his gratitude and said he couldn’t believe that an Agency and staff members could be so generous, kind and thoughtful.  


Edith is a senior citizen who couldn’t afford to live solely on her retirement income. She took a part time job to boost her financial security, but not before some of her expenses got away from her and she was no longer able to keep her head above water. Edith came in to meet with a staff member and talked about her situation. Staff spent a lot of time with Edith, listening and helping her organize and prioritize her bills, paperwork and expenses. Edith was visibly overwhelmed and hopeless, feeling that the situation was far too big for her to resolve. Based on her available budget and what some of Edith’s priorities were, the staff person was able to explain and organize her paperwork into an understandable and comprehensive manner for Edith. A clear list of income and outgoing expenses was prepared for Edith’s reference each month. Edith was clearly more calm and said she was feeling less stressed. Catholic Charities of Columbia and Greene Counties was able to provide her with some financial support to help her overcome her initial financial distress and free up some of her money to be applied to additional bills. Edith has called several times since to thank the Agency and staff, and to tell us we are in her prayers.