400 families helped in COVID-19 pandemic

Published: June 23, 2020

The following article was originally published in Catholic Charities Connections, a special section of Arkansas Catholic, on June 20, 2020.

The coronavirus lockdown has restricted the person-to-person activities of Catholic Charities of Arkansas. We have treated the coronavirus impact on our parishes as we would a disaster. It is a disaster. In this context, each parish has addressed the particular circumstances in its own community. As usual, each parish has been a Catholic charity.

Photo courtesy Miriam Gallaher
Catholic Charities of Arkansas executive director Patrick Gallaher (right) tours St. Mary of the Springs Church food pantry in Hot Springs May 13, 2020. Pantry director Bonnie Newman shows how the pantry serves both the parish families at St. Mary and St. John the Baptist, and the community, even after other local food pantries have closed because of COVID-19.

Our main response has been to solicit applications from parishes for grants to respond to the immediate needs of the communities each parish serves. We have also been able to focus special assistance to groups and individuals brought to our attention by parishes. Through a small grant from Catholic Charities USA, we were able to assist the food pantry operated out of St. Theresa School in Little Rock.

In this effort, 19 families comprising 108 people were assisted with food and other necessaries. Using our own disaster funds, we were able to assist El Centro Hispano in Jonesboro to help families affected not only by the coronavirus, but also by the tornado in late March. Catholic Charities USA came through with another grant — a $10,000 emergency grant — which we supplemented with money from our Poor Fund.

With these funds, we emailed all the parishes and schools in the diocese asking that any with unmet needs among their communities submit applications for small grants. We received 22 applications and were able to meet each request in full. Through this program,  more than 400 families have received assistance with food, utilities and rent to help with the challenge presented by coronavirus. The great majority of these recipients are immigrant families who are not entitled to any of the government relief programs available to our population at large.

Presently, we are processing our annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development local grant applications. We will consider these grants with a special view toward meeting the needs generated by the coronavirus in the communities of the applicants. In particular, food programs will receive special attention.

Consequently, a second round of funding to communities in need will be distributed within the diocese by the first part of July. We have begun planning for a third round of assistance and are seeking funds to implement it. Any donations for this third effort are deeply appreciated. Please send checks to: Catholic Charities of Arkansas, 2500 N. Tyler St., Little Rock, AR 72207, with the notation that they are intended for the "Poor Fund for Coronavirus Relief."