Catholic Social Services expanding in Robertsdale
Source: Al.com, Submitted by Sally McKinney
ROBERTSDALE, Alabama -- Norman Franz, a member of Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Gulf Shores, is spending quality time in Robertsdale, renovating the building that will soon house volunteer and immigration services.
Catholic Social Services is adding this building to its other buildings on Ala. 59 in Robertsdale.
Robert Yates volunteers each week in the Food Pantry at Catholic Social Services in Robertsdale.
Catholic Charities USA -- including local affiliate Catholic Social Services in Robertsdale -- will celebrate its centennial this fall. The national organization is composed of about 1,700 local affiliates.
In Robertsdale, the Baldwin County program operates out of three buildings, soon to be four, program leaders said. The space donated to help launch the Family Promise offices is being renovated to accommodate volunteer and immigration programs as well as legal services, if a grant comes through.
Under the guidance of volunteer Norman Franz, the 1980s, eight-room facility is being rearranged. Walls are being removed; others are being added. New carpeting and other accoutrements will also be added. A place to serve men, women, children and families will stand amid the Thrift Shop, the organization’s offices, the Christmas Building and the food pantry.
The proposal for the grant requests funds to establish a collaborative relationship between Legal Services of Alabama and Catholic Social Services. Legal Services provides legal assistance to Alabama’s low-income citizens and families, ranging from counsel and advice and self-help forms to advocacy before administrative agencies and representation in court. These services will target those affected by the oil crisis.
When school opened, 288 students were provided with school supplies, uniforms and some fees. Of those, 41 attend high school, 68 are in middle school and 176 attend elementary schools in Baldwin County. Most are Robertsdale students, but students from Bay Minette to Foley received aid. Three college students were also helped, a spokesman said.
The Immigration Program deals with cases weekly, focusing on family based immigration. The staff attends annual training sessions through Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. They help reunite the poor with families by keeping fees nominal and by applying for fee waivers for extreme hardship situations. This training is required to maintain accreditation with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Catholic Social Services goals are to increase these services, along with providing more help to victims of human trafficking and minor youth in a Safe Passages Program sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Bishops.
The oil crisis has increased mental health issues in the county and Catholic Social Services has a part-time licensed counselor to help. Forty-two clients received 199 hours of therapy. Donations, grants, fees and funding from Catholic Charities and the United Way make this available for the poor and uninsured.
Special utility assistance programs are available to needy families. Last quarter, the Riviera Fund spent almost $2,000 helping 16 families. Families with an elderly or disabled member are eligible for help from Project SHARE.
A new program established by the city of Robertsdale, called Neighbors to Neighbors, helps families meet the high cost of heating and cooling. Beginning in April, the program spent more than $5,000 to help 33 families.
The Thrift Shop provides clothing and household items to all county residents. Although 42 families "shopped for free" with vouchers provided by caseworkers, other shoppers spend almost $20,000 during the quarter. These funds are used for emergency aid. Volunteers provide many hours of sorting, marking, storing, shelving and selling items for the whole family.
Those without medical prescription insurance may be able to get medications through the Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy. Local physicians donate pharmaceuticals to this life-saving program. Last quarter, 28 people received 73 free prescriptions valued at almost $2,900.
The food pantry is filled with nonperishable items at all times and during the height of the harvest, a variety of vegetables such as corn, okra and greens are available. Donated refrigerators and a walk-in cooler store perishables. The shelves are stacked with items donations from individuals, stores and county churches. Many volunteer hours are spent in this area of the main building.
For help, go to Robertsdale on Ala. 59, just south of St. Patrick Catholic School, to find the center. For more information, call 251-947-2293.
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