Diocese awards thousands to charitable organizations

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PROVIDENCE — During a visit to the diocese's St. Martin de Porres Senior Center on Dec. 21, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin awarded grants from the Diocesan Emergency Assistance Fund to local agencies serving the less fortunate.

The funds awarded were made possible by a donation made to the diocese by an anonymous benefactor and do not include parish assessment or Catholic Charity Fund resources.

The grants will be used by the organizations to provide direct assistance, such as food and temporary housing, to economically struggling Rhode Island families, regardless of religious affiliation.

“Faith communities throughout the state continue to answer the needs of those facing significant challenges in their lives and those of their families,” said Bishop Tobin.

“As the recent snowstorm reminded us, the winter is indeed a difficult time for those in need. I am hopeful that these diocesan grants will make a real difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in need this Christmas season.”

The Diocesan Emergency Assistance Program is designed to assist emergency shelters, meal sites and food pantries throughout the state to meet the increased needs of individuals and families impacted by the weakened economy, increased unemployment and severe cuts made in local and state budgets to programs that provide crucial services to those in need.

John Barry, diocesan secretary for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, said the grants will help programs to meet the increased need for supportive services throughout the state.

“I am so pleased that the bishop, in his generosity and awareness of these locally-run programs, has remembered on the most frigid of nights that these programs are providing shelter to those with no place to go,” he said. “They all operate with inadequate resources and dedicated and generous volunteers.

“Bishop Tobin’s donations go a long way in helping these programs to provide the services that make a great deal in people’s lives,” Barry added.

Jennifer Barrera, program director at Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown, said the grant the program received will be used for client services. The 25 year-old program, established by the Interfaith Council of Newport, serves homeless women and their children by providing emergency shelter, transitional apartments, and supportive services to families who have made the successful transition to their own apartments. The program is based in property rented from St. Lucy Church, and assists families throughout Newport County.

“There are 40 families waiting to enter at any time, “ said Barrera, adding that the homeless families initially stay at the shelter for four-eight months, where the women are taught to become self sufficient and how to create goals.

“They are always working very hard,” she added.

“We’re fortunate to have received this exceptional award so close to the holidays and the winter,” Barrera added. “It will go a long way to support our program.”

Father Robert Perron, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Pawtucket, said the donation came at a “fortuitous time” as the parish soup kitchen’s board of directors seeks to hire a new director. He added that several generous benefactors have also recently contributed to help fund the soup kitchen, which served 31,000 meals last year.

The kitchen serves meals six days a week, and has been directed by volunteer Ernest Marot for the past 18 years.

“There is a lot of need in Pawtucket,” said Father Perron, adding that many of the soup kitchen’s guests are either homeless or the working poor.

He added that 98 families recently received groceries from the parish’s twice-monthly food pantry.