Tucked into a steep hillside off an alley in Bellefonte is a Civil Warera barn, formerly a stable for an old hotel on the stagecoach route. Today it is home to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. We dont pretend to have the manger in these humble surroundings, but the spirit of the Christ child is evident there this holiday season as it is through the year.
What is a charity? The word is interchangeable with love, but the truth is that charity is love in action. Catholic Charities is separate from but committed to our Diocesan Church. It is concerned with the problems facing contemporary society, including the breakdown of the family and family dysfunction as a result of substance abuse, unemployment, illness and chronic poverty.
To this end the agency offers professional counseling and emergency financial assistance for basic needs on an individual basis.
Catholic Charities cares for the people of Centre County without regard for race, ethnicity, religious belief or financial means, giving concrete expression to Matthew 25, where Christ calls us to love and serve our neighbor as ourselves. We go where the clients are, meeting people in our office, in the community, in the schools, in their homes and sometimes on the road. Staff members see their work as a ministry as well as a career.
Financial support for Catholic Charities comes from the Annual Catholic Appeal, the Centre County United Way and contributions from individual donors. We collaborate with many other community agencies and charities including the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Good Shepherd Catholic Church Matthew 25 to name a few. These collaborations result in life-changing financial assistance packages.
Catholic Charities USA, our umbrella organization, serves as a model for the local Catholic Charities. The BBB Wise Giving Alliances reports that Catholic Charities USA meets every one of its 20 standards for charity accountability and budgets 84 percent of income to meet program expenses among the most efficient charities in the world. Our local Catholic Charities spends little on fundraising and publicity and even less on extra benefits such as generous salaries or travel. Donated money goes dollar-for-dollar directly to clients.
The holiday season, with its stress and financial pressure, is upon us. The mass media offer breathless updates from shopping sites. Black Friday and Cyber Monday literally scream out to our debtridden nation to spend more.
A wise gift to oneself as well as to others this Christmas is to push back against the national religion of consumerism. In an age where the merchandise is pursuing the buyer, rather than the other way around, one can always give a gift that cant be bought in a store. Put love into action and give to charity.
Paula Raynar is a licensed professional counselor at Catholic Charities.