Archive for May, 2012

Diocese Defends Religious Liberty

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by Mike

Suit filed in U.S. District Court

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA — On May 21st, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Catholic Charities of the diocese, Saint Anne Home and Retirement Community, Franciscan Alliance, the University of Saint Francis, and Our Sunday Visitor filed a lawsuit against various government defendants, seeking justice from U.S. District Court (Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division). The University of Notre Dame has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court (Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division). We are in deep solidarity in our conviction that the government is not authorized to force us to violate our consciences, by making us provide, pay for and/or facilitate “services” that are contrary to our religious beliefs. “American history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protect religious entities from such overbearing and oppressive governmental action”.

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On the right track

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by Mike

Catholic Charities continues to provide the guidance and support young mothers need to stay in school and build a better future for their families.

Pregnancy—and coping with the new challenges presented by parenting—is the No. 1 reason why teenage girls drop out of school. And nationally, more than half of pregnant and parenting teens do drop out before graduating from high school. 

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that dropouts typically earn less than half of what high school graduates earn, a difference that often sends dropouts into a cycle of poverty, where they’re more likely to seek governmental aid and be involved with the Department of Child Services. 

For those reasons, Catholic Charities offers ECHO (Education Creates Hope and Opportunity) to young women in the Fort Wayne and South Bend areas. Not only do ECHO clients graduate at a much higher rate than their counterparts who don’t participate, many ECHO clients also go on to pursue higher education.

At its essence, ECHO is a long-term case-management program that enables pregnant and parenting teens to continue their education; graduate from high school or an alternative program, or earn a GED; and go on to brighter futures for them and their families.

Natalie Corazzi and Liz Flaherty, ECHO case managers for the Fort Wayne area.

Case managers work individually with clients at their schools, in their homes, or wherever they may need assistance. Case managers help clients set realistic academic goals and strive to ensure that clients achieve those goals.

Case managers also provide a wealth of information on available community and governmental resources. Health-care issues for both the client and her child are also addressed, along with child-care needs and parenting and life skills. If a client must work as she continues her education, case managers help make that happen, too. Caseworkers often provide transportation to essential destinations when no other means are available. 

As part of her duties as family services coordinator for Catholic Charities, Tosha Gearhart oversees ECHO in Fort Wayne and South Bend. “With ECHO, we provide stability in the lives of our clients,” Tosha says. “We’re a constant in their lives when perhaps no one else is. 
“Our case managers are absolutely dedicated to their clients,” Tosha adds. “They go above and beyond, sometimes even assisting on their days off from work.”

The ECHO case managers assisting clients at Fort Wayne area high schools are Natalie Corazzi and Liz Flaherty. 

“We provide support and guidance during a very stressful time in our clients’ lives,” Liz says. “It’s a time when their future may be determined. We tell them it’s not the end of the world, and that they need to stay on track. Our clients are at an age when they don’t always recognize the importance of education. We help them get past that stage.”

Says Natalie, “I think the most important part of what we do is to provide emotional support. Many of our clients don’t have the support they need from their families. And, of course, helping them monitor their grades is important, too.” 

Kwajalein Reed is the ECHO case manager working within the South Bend Community School Corporation in St. Joseph County. “We give them hope,” Kwajalein says. “Society tells our clients that a single young woman with a baby has less of a chance to graduate from school and be successful in life. We help them establish goals and aspirations beyond high school.” 

Natalie, Liz, and Kwajalein also assist clients in Educational Support for Young Parents, a recently established component of ECHO that addresses the needs of college-age moms under 24 who are pursing higher education or are enrolled in adult GED programs.

Kwajalein Reed, ECHO case manager for the South Bend area.

“In this new component, many of our clients were clients in our teen-parenting segment,” Natalie says. “We’re providing continuing support, but the focus is shifted to independent-living skills, financial literacy, and career planning.”

Currently, there are 62 active ECHO clients, 30 in the Fort Wayne area, and 32 in South Bend. Abigail Rust and Reshana Williams are among those clients set to graduate from high school. Both readily share their appreciation for ECHO and their case managers.

Abigail joined ECHO early in 2010 when she learned she was carrying her daughter Olive, who was born later that year on September 2. “My school nurse recommended ECHO—she said it was a good program,” Abilgail says. 

“Liz has been my case manager and my cheerleader,” Abigail continues. “She’s very encouraging. I was very upset when I found out I was pregnant—I’m not the kind of person who would be pregnant at such a young age. I had a hard time adjusting at first, but Liz helped me keep my priorities straight. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I went to school because I thought Liz would be disappointed if I didn’t.

“Without ECHO, I might still have graduated, but I don’t think my grades would have been as good, and I don’t think I would have been as content with my situation as I am,” Abigail adds. 

And Abilgail’s grades have been excellent—she’s an honor student and will walk across the stage at Northrop High School in June. She’s already enrolled at the University of Saint Francis, where she wants to study to be a physician assistant. Abigail also has a fallback talent—she’s a caricaturist.

Reshana, another honor student, is set to graduate from Clay High School in South Bend this spring, just about a month after she gives birth to her daughter. She’s already been accepted into two universities and wants to be a nurse practitioner.

Reshana gives much credit to her case manager. “Kwajalein has helped me in a lot of ways,” Reshana says. “One of the most important things she’s done is help me set goals and time limits to achieve those goals. She’s also provided a lot of helpful information.

“I probably would have stayed in school, but it would have been much harder without the support from Kwajalein and ECHO,” Reshana adds. 
Participation in ECHO is free and voluntary. Referrals can come from just about anyone, including school personnel, health-care and social-services professionals, 
friends, and family members. There’s also self-referral.

To learn more about ECHO, call (260) 422-5625 in Fort Wayne or (574) 234-3111 in South Bend. 

Demand and supply

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by Mike

RSVP anticipates a great demand for backpacks and school supplies for the 2012–2013 school year.
Call Terri at (260) 925-0917 to learn how you can help.

RSVP’s annual Pack-A-Backpack campaign is again under way.

RSVP of DeKalb, Noble, Steuben, and LaGrange Counties is seeking donors for its eighth annual Pack-A-Backpack campaign, an effort to provide school supplies to students from lower-income families.

Last year’s Pack-A-Backpack drive resulted in 884 brand-new backpacks filled with school supplies for students in Noble and DeKalb counties. To be eligible for Pack-A-Backpack, a student’s family income must fall within the guidelines for free or reduced school meals.

Pack-A-Backpack is made possible through contributions from individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations. Some donate new backpacks and supplies, while others donate money that RSVP uses to buy products.

“It’s important that all children have the supplies they need to start a new school year,” says Terri Pfenning, RSVP volunteer coordinator. “Every child, regardless of his or her family’s financial resources, should start on the same footing. Without Pack-A-Backpack, many children would go without the necessary supplies. And teachers have commented on how enthusiastic children are to learn when they have the supplies they need to start out the school year.

“With the economy still struggling, we anticipate an even greater need for backpacks and supplies to start the 2012–2013 school year in the fall,” Terri adds.

To learn how you can help, call Terri at (260) 925-0917.

A familiar face

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by Mike

Catholic Charities has a new director of community relations.

Kathy Denice, the new director of community relations for Catholic Charities, is a familiar face around the agency and in the broader Catholic community.

From 2004 until this year, Kathy served on the Catholic Charities board of directors, and until recently, she was the business manager at Today’s Catholic. She’s also active at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.

Kathy’s challenge in this new position with Catholic Charities is twofold. She’s striving to raise general awareness of the agency and its mission, and she’s working to increase the agency’s financial base.

“The mission of Catholic Charities became a passion for me during my time on the board,” Kathy says. “When the agency offered me this opportunity, a newly created position, I was very pleased to accept.

“Something I want to emphasize as I work to raise awareness of what we do in the broader community, is that people don’t have to be Catholic to receive our services,” Kathy adds. “We do what we do because we are Catholic—serving families, the elderly, and the poor.”

Kathy took the long way to our area. Born in Chicago, she lived in Miami (where she graduated from Notre Dame Academy for Girls), and New Jersey before moving to Fort Wayne in 1976.

Kathy worked in the travel agency business for several years, including running her own travel agency for seven years. She’s done some traveling of her own, too. Europe and the Caribbean have been some favorite destinations.

Kathy and her husband, Nick, who passed away in 2000, raised four children. Now, Kathy loves to spend time with her 10 grandchildren, ages 3 through 21. She’s also fond of gardening and still likes to travel when the opportunity arises.


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