Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clean of Heart Stories- Part 4

Over the past week we have shared Clean of Heart client stories. Today we will conclude this spotlight series. To read earlier posts containing client stories or to read what our volunteers said about serving at Clean of Heart, please go here.

“I've been coming to Clean of Heart for 5 glorious months! My friend told me about Clean of Heart. These are the most caring, loving, and truly unselfish people I have met while being homeless. They have truly lifted my spirits and state of mind.”

“I found out about Clean of Heart online. I've been coming for 19 months since it first opened. Even if I just get cleaned up once a week that’s a big help to me.”

Clean of Heart is located in Columbia, SC and offers showers and laundry services to homeless individuals, like this client, in the Midlands area.

“I started coming to Clean of Heart about 3 months ago. I heard about it through word of mouth. It feels good to be clean and have clean clothes to wear. Thanks!”

Thanks for following along with these stories! If you are interested in volunteering or donating to Clean of Heart or would like to learn more about Clean of Heart and other Catholic Charities ministries, please visit our website here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Clean of Heart Stories- Part 3

Today we continue our Clean of Heart client stories. Clean of Heart is located in Columbia, SC and provides laundry and shower services to the homeless. To catch up and read the previous posts of client stories or to read Clean of Heart volunteer stories, please go here. If you would like to learn more about this ministry opportunity or donating your time or resources, please visit our website here.

“I stopped by a church for clothes and hygiene kits and they told me about Clean of Heart. I've been coming for 17 months now. It has been one of the best things that has happened to me since I started living on the street. It is such a joy to stop here and clean up and the kindness from the helpers is such a blessing.”

“I've been coming to the Catholic Charities Clothing Closet for a while. They told me about Clean of Heart opening and I've been coming since then. It’s nice to have clean clothes to wear.”

Clean of Heart clients enjoying a break from the Columbia heat while their clothes get cleaned.

“I have been in Columbia for 3 years now and even though the clothing give away has been a very good program, we can’t always get our size. The laundry facility allows us to wash the clothes that we like and wear the most. It is a luxury as well as a necessity. We are truly grateful for all that you have done for us. Thank you.”

We’ll be back tomorrow to hear the last of the Clean of Heart client stories!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clean of Heart Stories- Part 2

On Wednesday we shared what some of the Clean of Heart clients had to say about their experiences in this program. The post may be found here. Today we bring you stories from more of our Clean of Heart Clients. To learn more about Clean of Heart and how you can donate or volunteer to this wonderful program, please go here.

“I heard about Clean of Heart from St. Peter's and started coming 4 months ago. Clean clothes and shower are a blessing. Oh yeah, and the good coffee and snacks!”

Clean of Heart clients enjoying coffee and conversation while their clothes are being washed.

“I stopped by a Catholic Church in downtown Columbia to get help with clothing. Someone told me what they were planning to do so I signed up. I have been coming for 18 months since it opened. I am thankful for the help they have been to me. Not just the help with laundry but also the Christian witness to me and how Clean of Heart shows compassion on the poor. Through them I see the true character of Christ and also how we should treat each other. Since I've been coming to Clean of Heart I've come back to Christ. I know that God put these folks into my life for a reason and I’ll be forever grateful.”

“I've been coming to Clean of Heart for 2 months. I heard about it from a friend. It’s wonderful and the people are nice and loving.”

Don’t forget to check back on Monday for more client stories!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Clean of Heart Stories- Part 1

We recently featured stories from some of our Clean of Heart volunteers. Clean of Heart is a Columbia, SC, ministry that exists to provide laundry services and showers to the homeless population. Over the next few days we are featuring stories from some of the Clean of Heart clients. If you would like to learn more about donating your time or resources to this wonderful program, please visit our website here. To hear from our volunteers, you may read past blog posts here.

“I have been coming to Clean of Heart for ten months and first heard about it from a sponsoring church. Coming here has given me hope that there are still a few people left who care. It’s nice to, at least, have the ‘outside of the cup’ clean.”

Clean of Heart not only gives clients a chance to shower and get clean clothes but also lets volunteers and clients get to know one another.

“I saw a sign on a church door about 13 months ago about Clean of Heart. I’m much happier now. I love having clean clothes.”

 “I found out about this program from a MACH pamphlet. I have been coming for 4 months now. Coming to Clean of Hear has helped me maintain dignity in difficult circumstances. You get dirty sleeping outside. I mean ‘dirt’ dirty. That is why people on the street look rough. By washing regularly I don’t have to look or feel dirty. I haven’t become hopeless like so many on the street. Clean of Heart saved me from despair.”

Come back tomorrow to hear more stories from Clean of Heart clients!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Immigration Series- Part 4

Over the past week we have featured guest writer Emily Guerrero. Emily, Supervising Immigration Attorney with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston, has shared her experiences since the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Today we conclude this series as Emily tells us about the clinics she and her staff have held to help young immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” obtain temporary legal status and work authorization.

On the morning of my first clinic, in the quiet car ride there, I have to admit I teared up, thinking of this wonderful day, this opportunity to change people’s lives. I felt honored to be a part of it. Once there, the volunteers came through the doors, as did the immigrants, and the day was smooth and productive. At the end of the day, once the tables and chairs were put back into their rightful places, the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion was heavy.

The thankfulness and gratitude of the Dreamers carried us through the exhaustion. The sincere “Thank you’s” and hugs and “God bless you’s” were an addictive boost of positive energy. Many mothers rushed to embrace us, thanking us for giving their child a long-awaited chance to succeed, to go to college. Also, the volunteers had an eye-opening experience and were stunned by the tenacity, intelligence, and authenticity of the Dreamers. It was truly a way of bringing everyone together.

Staff members and volunteers working with Dreamers to complete the necessary legal forms.

All in all, we did seven group processing clinics across the state and served almost 400 people in preparing their Dreamers applications. We had many victories, made a lot of mistakes, and learned so much. We learned that even though we are a small program, we can accomplish so much. We can think outside of the box, we can partner with other agencies and people, and we can use the resources in our communities.
I am infinitely proud of my staff, who worked so hard to make these clinics happen. I am humbled by their diligence, their perseverance, their grace under unbelievable pressure. We have the confidence now to do anything, right after we take a very long break J. I encourage all of you to challenge yourselves, get out of your comfort zone, and know that your efforts do not have to be perfect. Think big, work hard, and the results will be life-changing, both for you and for the people you serve.

Volunteers working together to insure Dreamer's forms are properly filled out.

Thank you, Emily, for sharing about your staff, the clinics, and all your hard work. It has been wonderful to learn more about our Catholic Charities Immigration Offices and the services they provide. Also- a huge thanks goes out to to all our employees and volunteers for the countless hours they have put into the clinics and processing of the paperwork in recent months. We’re so proud of their hard work and for the Dreamers who have had the courage to chase after their dreams for a better future!

If you would like to learn more about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act or read the rest of this series, please click here. To learn more about Catholic Charities Immigration Offices, click here. Interested in donating your time or resources? Click here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Immigration Series- Part 3

Today we continue our series written by Emily Guerrero, Supervising Immigration Attorney for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston. Please join us as we learn more about how Emily and her staff are helping “Dreamers” apply for temporary lawful status and work authorization since the enactment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA).

The days and months passed, and we readied ourselves for the group processing clinics. Nights and weekends blurred together as we prepared the curriculum, recruited and trained volunteers, and drafted informational materials. Mily, Vanessa, and Blenda spent their weekends doing massive amounts of outreach, spreading the word about the Dreamers relief and how to apply. Weekdays, the phones rang until our ears bled, and potential Dreamers streamed in the doors and filled our waiting rooms. We begged for volunteers to help answer the phones. The workload was weighty, and the stress even crept into our beds, stealing sleep like a merciless thief.

Bright spots abounded as we trained volunteers in Charleston, Hilton Head, and Greenville. I used law students from the Charleston School of Law and was moved by their energy, their enthusiasm. Vanessa used students from Furman and partnered with Alianza Hispana, a local Hispanic advocacy group. Mily used volunteers from a local volunteer group. A handful of wonderful private immigration attorneys joined in our efforts. We were humbled by these volunteers, giving of their time and expertise solely for the joy of service.
We planned to do seven group processing clinics around the state. As the group processing clinics neared, we geared up our copy machines and copied our clinic materials until smoke rose up from the machines. The piles of materials and office supplies cluttered our already-cluttered offices. Finally, we were ready, and luckily, our good friends, adrenaline and caffeine, were coming to the clinics too.

Volunteers, staff and Dreamers working to complete the paperwork for temporary lawful status and work authorization.

Wow- it’s tiring just reading about all that you and your staff have done, Emily! We still desperately need volunteers in our legal services offices. If you are bilingual and interested in volunteering, please call 843-402-9115, ext. 15 or 45.

This series will continue on Monday, so be sure to check back at the blog to read more from Emily! If you would like to read past posts from this series or learn more about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston’s response to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, please click here. To donate your time or money, please visit our website here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Immigration Series- Part 2

On Monday we introduced you to one of our wonderful employees, Emily Guerrero. Emily is an immigration attorney and oversees the Catholic Charities legal services offices. In recent months Emily and her staff have worked tirelessly to help young immigrants (“Dreamers”) apply for temporary lawful status and work authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Back to you, Emily!

Preliminary estimates have shown that South Carolina has about 7500 Dreamers. We knew we needed to serve as many as possible in an efficient way. Our staff is small, comprised of five talented, wonderful women covering the entire state of South Carolina. Andrea is in Charleston and has a special Board of Immigration Appeals accreditation because of her five years of on-the-job experience and training background. Mily, an attorney in Peru, heads up the Hilton Head office and works so hard, I have to beg her to take a day off, to no avail. She started in April and bravely jumped right into the middle of the crazy pace of our offices.

Vanessa is our attorney in Greenville, and we thank God everyday for her snappy sense of humor. She attracts the messiest, strangest immigration issues, and she valiantly and unsuccessfully tries to stave off her stress level with baking, tennis, fishing, and knitting. Blenda, a caseworker in Greenville, is our resident legal expert, researching everything and able to answer questions like a seasoned immigration practitioner. And there’s me, with my palms sweating and my mind racing. How are we going to serve all of these young, deserving people?

On the same day that Obama introduced the Dreamers relief, we sketched our enthusiastic plan to do group processing clinics around the state. Our idea was to process groups of 50-60 immigrants at a time, helping them to fill out the forms and gather the necessary supporting documents. We would recruit volunteers! We would train them! We would do outreach! We would help hundreds of immigrants to file their petitions! We were all idealistic and starry-eyed, excited to be a part of history. Looking back, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into…

Staff and volunteers helping Dreamers during the Immigration clinics.

Check back Friday to learn more about the clinics our Immigration Offices have held to help Dreamers apply for their temporary lawful status and work authorization! If you would like to learn more about this Act and how Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston has responded, please visit previous blog posts here. To learn more about donating your money or time, please click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Immigration Series- Part 1

The lives of thousands of young immigrants in the United States changed on July 15, 2012, when President Obama announced the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act. This act offers temporary lawful status and work authorization to young immigrants, frequently referred to as “Dreamers”. Emily Guerrero, Supervising Immigration Attorney, graciously volunteered to write a special guest series about how she and her staff have responded to assist the Dreamers of South Carolina since the passage of DACA was enacted, our legal services have processed paperwork for 400 Dreamers. Take it away, Emily!

When Obama called a press conference to announce the new immigration relief for “Dreamers,” my first reaction was pure panic. My palms started to sweat, and my heart began to race. I knew that our small immigration legal services program was going to be inundated with people, clamoring to apply for this new work permit. My second reaction was more methodical, with the aim of calming my racing heart and neurotic mind. I got to work, and I started to plan our response.

As the specifics of this new immigration relief came to light, we knew it was a watered-down version of the Dream Act, which has failed to pass in the legislature for years. Young people under the age of 30 who came to the U.S. when they were under the age of 16 are eligible for deferred action and a work permit, as long as they are in school, graduated from high school, or were honorably discharged from the military.

USCIS (Immigration) calls this relief, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” It aims to help young people move forward in their lives and careers, creating the possibility of college and a well-paying job. Many of these Dreamers have been in the U.S. since they were toddlers and know no other place as home. They speak English fluently and identify themselves as Americans. Many have graduated from high school and find themselves in a holding pattern, unable to go to college and forced to take low-skilled, low-paying jobs.
Dreamers are eager, enthusiastic, and beyond thankful to have this opportunity. With this work permit, they will not have legal status in the U.S., but they will have a work permit, a driver’s license, and a social security number. These are small concessions, but in their world, it is everything. It is, finally, a small step forward for them and a chance to advance themselves and contribute openly to their communities.

Immigrants and volunteers at the beginning of one of the 7 clinics.

Thanks for sharing, Emily! Please check back Wednesday, October 17 to learn more about our Immigration Offices staff and their reactions to the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. To learn more about this Act and how you can help, please click here. If you would like to learn more about donating your time or resources, please visit our website here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Calling All Artists!

Hi everyone,

For the Catholic Charities Christmas card this year we have decided to do a little something different. We are holding a contest for the card design and all of our wonderful volunteers are invited to participate!

The rules are as follows:
1. This contest is open only to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston employees, volunteers, or immediate family members of employees and volunteers.
2. Submissions can include any form of artwork- photos, drawings, painting, graphic design, etc. Artwork must be the original creation of the person who is entering it. All ages may participate.
3. Any photographs that are submitted may not contain identifiable individuals.
4. Submissions cannot include any pictures or text that contradicts Catholic religious or social teachings.
5. Only one submission per individual will be considered, however there is no limit regarding how many family members may participate.

All entries must be given to Kelly Warren (kwarren@catholic-doc.org) by October 26, 2012. All submissions will be reviewed by an anonymous third party to determine if all requirements have been complied with. Once the submissions have been received and reviewed, they will be uploaded to the Catholic Charities Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” us, we can be found here. Each submission will be voted on from October 31-November 9 and voting will be open to the public. We encourage you to share this contest with your family and friends to bring in votes for your favorite card design. The winning entry will be the one with the most “likes” at 5:00 on November 9.

When submitting your entry, please include this submission form. This form allows us to properly credit the artwork and gives us permission to use the winning submission on the Christmas card. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly.

Thanks and we can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Volunteers Make A Difference!

A big thanks to volunteer Ed Russo! Ed helps at the Pee Dee Catholic Charities office and recently worked with client Steve, both pictured below. These men are celebrating after Ed and Catholic Charities were able to help Steve overcome a financial setback. As a result of overcoming this setback, Steve was able to get much needed medications for an upcoming surgery.

Thanks to Ed and all our other volunteers who help clients like Steve each day!

Do you have a story you would like to share about a Catholic Charities volunteer or employee who has helped you? If Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston has touched your life, please let us know at ccdocsc@gmail.com

*All names and pictures used with permission