By Dave Woodyard
Special to The Texas Catholic
2020 was one of the most challenging years that many of us may ever face in our lifetimes, but it also shone a light on the opportunities to offer kindness and a helping hand and serve as a beacon of hope for those struggling amidst poverty, social injustice and a global pandemic.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic Charities quickly expanded its services and adapted programs to meet the urgent needs of the community, particularly in the areas of hunger and homelessness prevention — two of our top strategic priorities.
Our team converted fixed food pantries into contactless, drive-through operations and fully deployed our two Mobile Community Pantries throughout our nine-county service area. Seeing the vast need, CCD was joined by a generous private donor and further supported by North Texas Food Bank to purchase a third mobile pantry and a refrigerated box truck. Since March 2020, we have provided more than 5 million meals to over 140,000 families, and we’re still tracking at 200% above pre-COVID levels.
For our neighbors who may have been living paycheck to paycheck, the pandemic led to catastrophic job losses, reductions in income and furloughs, leaving families reeling and adrift, with no way to cover their living costs. Here too, extraordinary generosity from individuals, families and foundations stepped in to provide over $1 million in donations to launch an emergency financial assistance program, allowing us to make rent, mortgage and utility payments for those in need.
Our Disaster Preparedness & Relief team ballooned by nearly 50 additional employees, as we took on third-party administration of emergency residential and small business assistance programs for cities in Dallas and Collin counties, using their CARES Act relief funds.
In a matter of months, our teams processed nearly 10,000 applications for assistance and were able to allocate nearly $10 million in assistance to over 3,700 households. All told, we helped families in crisis across 39 different cities and 114 zip codes.
As the pandemic crisis continues, so does our commitment to answering the call for all in need.
In late December, we partnered again with the Catholic Housing Initiative to open St. Jude Center-Park Central, a new housing community for the homeless. This endeavor, a four-story, 180-room former hotel at the corner of LBJ and Coit Road, is another strong example of a public-private collaboration to purchase, renovate and then adaptively re-use existing facilities responding to our social needs at a fraction of the cost and time of new construction.
We opened the doors on December 14, welcoming COVID-impacted individuals who are recovering from COVID or need to be isolated due to exposure to COVID. We have also already served as a temporary shelter for the homeless during cold weather spells, welcoming people who otherwise would have been spending the night on the streets in freezing conditions.
As we enter this new year, the calls from cities and counties have already begun seeking our support and partnership in deploying additional CARES Act funds to our communities of service. We also anticipate a surge in requests for assistance related to immigration and refugee asylum, all while our other key services and programs in the areas of education, children, seniors, adoptions, financial education and disaster response remain in high demand as well.
Catholic Charities is just one of many non-profit organizations in our North Texas region seeing the many lives affected, the high unemployment, and the likely tsunami of need ahead. We all share a desire to collaborate, drive efficiencies and deliver positive outcomes for those most in need.
We at CCD invite the community to be a part of our work. The issues facing our region are vast, but through hard work, effective partnerships, and generous investments, we are confident that CCD will continue to play a leadership role in tackling some of our community’s most pressing needs.
Dave Woodyard has served as the president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Dallas since February 2016.