COLORADO SPRINGS — While many of us have been challenged during the pandemic, so have local nonprofit organizations helping members of the community. However, one organization still found a way to ramp up their efforts and expand services.
Catholic Charities of Central Colorado has been a place of help and hope for more than 30 years. Last year, they provided a sense of hope for the homeless and poor population in Colorado Springs, but it was a year ago today that everything changed.
The non-profit went from feeding 600 people every day at the Marion House Kitchen, to now feeding about 150 every day.
Andy Barton, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, says that's because people couldn't gather in large groups and eat inside the building. It used to be a buffet-style service, but now meals are pre-plated, and people can only be inside for 15 minutes at a time.
Barton said, "when things shut down in the city, our homeless population became extremely vulnerable. We had a stay-at-home order, and we had a population who didn't have a home. So for the first time within our history, we were going out into the community to deliver food to different locations."
The organization also stepped up in providing rental assistance for households in El Paso County. Before the pandemic began, they gave away about $70,000 to help about 40 households with rent and their mortgage. Last year, they gave away nearly $1 million, which helped more than 900 households.
Barton also mentioned the client base was different in the past year, which were people who hadn't sought help before. "We started to see a growing wave of folks that we hadn't worked with in the past, and that's that group that have lost jobs, who were working at restaurants and motels, and who were living pay check to pay check."
The organization also provides healthcare, employment and housing services and case management. Case management became virtual during the pandemic. They also opened a food pantry in the beginning of February. Since then, they've distributed 12,000 lbs. of food to clients.
Volunteers like Gary Turner have been spending nearly 25 hours a week, helping out at the Marion House Kitchen. He says that clients in need, "they all 'thank you' for what we do for them down here. They're very appreciative and sometimes this is the only meal they get."
Turner says in his six years of volunteering, the past year has been the most memorable.
"It has been rewarding, just to help the community and help the people out that aren't as well off. It means a lot to ya," said Turner.
The organization faced challenges early on like food and volunteer shortages. Because of the pandemic, Catholic Charities also canceled in-person fundraisers, which most of their funding for the rest of the year, comes from.
Next Wednesday, March 17, the organization is holding their second virtual St. Patricks Day Gala. It's their biggest fund-raising event of the year.
The nonprofit also hoped to expand job and employment services, as we near the end of the pandemic.
For more information about Catholic Charities, click here.