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Gratitude to Catholic Charities, Annual Appeal

Asked what she feels when she reflects on ways Catholic Charities has helped her, Sandy Garcia has a ready answer.

“Gratitude,” says Garcia, coordinator of the Catholic Charities food pantry at the Juan Diego Center in south Omaha – where she once received the kind of bread and other grocery items that she now helps distribute.

It’s been a long, difficult road for Garcia, a 34-year-old native of Mexico who was granted refugee status in the United States to protect her from domestic violence and now is a legal permanent resident – all with Catholic Charities’ legal assistance.

Catholic Charities was there for her when she was not earning enough money to make ends meet and came to the pantry for food assistance. And in April, she began helping others in the community with a full-time job at the center.

“I love it,” Garcia said of her work. “I really love it. I’ve been working with the community. It’s not easy. I’ve been through that, looking for help, looking for nice people. I feel (what it’s like to be) in their shoes.”

 Ana Barrios is program director of the pantry and of Catholic Charities’ family strengthening services, and a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha. She said Garcia is a wonderful member of the team. 

“She likes to help people and is very understanding,” Barrios said. “It’s a good thing to be able to find the right fit for a workplace. And I think she is a right fit for this.”

Garcia said she feels grateful for all Catholic Charities has done for her, and she feels she can never give back enough.

“It’s not paying back, but I can give a little bit of what I get. And I can make a little difference, as Catholic Charities made a big difference in my life.”

And Garcia and Barrios are grateful to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and the parishioners across the archdiocese who support it. The appeal provides about 26 percent of the archdiocese’s annual operating budget, helping to fund such ministries as adult faith formation and youth ministry, religious education and training for lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. The appeal also assists Catholic Charities and its food pantries in south and north Omaha, immigration legal assistance, microbusiness training, mental and behavioral health programs and other services. 

 “I think it’s wonderful,” Garcia said of the appeal. “I always tell Ana, ‘Yes, I can volunteer for whatever I need to do. My visa (immigration assistance) costs a lot of money, so when I see these collections, it can make a difference and for different families.”

Catholic Charities also has buttressed her faith, said Garcia, a Christian. 

“I think the people who are in this building, especially Ana, help me to see the life that comes with faith,” she said. “I pray every day to have a good day at work and to help the people the way God will be helping them.”

This year’s appeal began Sept. 15, and parishioners already have pledged $1.7 million toward the $4.1 million goal, said Breeane Kotulak, development officer in the Stewardship and Development Office. Three parishes have gone over their monetary goal – St. Anne in Dixon, St. Rose of Lima in Hooper and St. John Paul II Newman Center near the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Parishes also have participation goals, with an overall goal of 25 percent participation among parishioners across the archdiocese. 

Garcia and Catholic Charities are good examples of the assistance the annual appeal provides people, Kotulak said.