The Innkeeper’s Story

When Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, being, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself, he was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, he told a familiar parable—the story of the Samaritan who, while on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, came upon a victim of robbers who had already been passed by a priest and a Levite. The Samaritan traveler, “moved with compassion at the sight,” treated the victim’s wounds and took him to an inn to care for him. Jesus ended the parable by instructing his followers to “Go and do likewise.”

We are all called to be like the Good Samaritan. However, we often overlook two parts of this story.

First, we are told that the Samaritan could not stay at the inn to care for the man until he had healed. He had to continue on his journey. Presumably, business was pressing in Jericho. He gave the innkeeper two silver coins with the instruction, “Take care of him.”

Second, the innkeeper didn’t question the Samaritan about where he found this man, if this man belonged, or why this man had been robbed and beaten. He simply opened his arms to serve his neighbor in need.

Recently, Pope Francis compared Catholic Charities to the innkeeper, “remaining open to heal and provide a safe place for on-going care.” With Catholic Charities Atlanta serving as the innkeeper, you can be a Good Samaritan. It is difficult to always stop on our busy journeys to care for those in need in our community. Our business in Jericho is pressing. But we can give money to the innkeeper, Catholic Charities Atlanta, with the instruction, “Take care of them.”

Like the innkeeper, we at Catholic Charities Atlanta do not pick and choose who we serve. Instead, we care for those in need at our doorstep, because anyone who knocks becomes our neighbor. We serve people of all faiths and backgrounds, not because they are Catholic, but because WE ARE CATHOLIC. Last year, we served nearly 18,000 individuals in need. Many of our clients are trapped in the vicious cycle of the working poor. Many are also facing a life crisis. They are alone and afraid. We evaluate each client’s unique situation and give them tools to become self-sufficient and whole again.

Here are some ways your donation to Catholic Charities Atlanta makes a difference:

It provides access to much-needed benefits and services for a military veteran. It provides legal services to a child who arrives in our country alone, abused, and lost in a world of immigration paperwork and bureaucracy. It provides counseling and parenting classes to a young mother facing an unplanned pregnancy. It provides foreclosure intervention to a family struggling to keep their home. It provides counseling to a couple struggling with marital issues. Finally, it provides a refugee family, fleeing persecution and war in their homeland, with the skills needed to navigate life in the United States.

Please remember the innkeeper with your generosity during this Christmas season of giving. And thank you for being a Good Samaritan. You are living out the everlasting words of Jesus: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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“I am a STUDENT”

“I am a student.”

He repeated, “I am a student!”

During the past five years, over 1,000 adults who have enrolled in our English Language classes could make this statement. But never was it said with such passion as on a Tuesday morning in August. It almost brought our class to tears.

His journey with Catholic Charities Atlanta began on February 1, 2012, when Jeom Bak and his wife Jung Hee came to our Chamblee office and asked if they could register in our program. The soft-spoken Korean gentleman explained that his wife could speak and understand very little and had never learned to read or write English, despite the fact that they have lived in this country for 36 years. He went on to say that, although he could speak and understand with some fluency, he had never had the opportunity to learn how to read and write. We helped them complete the paperwork and entry assessments and then assigned them to different classes. Since that day they have had almost perfect attendance.

Their participation has shattered the image of what it means to seek English literacy. At 83, Jeom’s determination to make up for lost time has been an inspiration for everyone he comes into contact with. Previous attempts to attend classes had been impeded by family and work commitments, and he relishes the luxury of retirement, which gives him the time to attend.

The couple’s journey in the United States began in 1976, when they and their two children settled in Macon, Georgia. He had accepted an offer to work as an engine mechanic and, while there, he created a mutual mentoring agreement with a Georgia-born co-worker: Jeom would share his mechanical expertise and his friend taught him to speak and understand English. Several years later they moved to the Atlanta area where he owned and operated mechanic and auto supply businesses.
Challenging experiences are nothing new to Mr. Bak. As a nine year old boy, his family moved to Japan to escape the impoverization being inflicted upon the Korean population. He recounts that, in Japan, he quickly learned to adapt to being a stranger in a strange land, skills which have come in handy throughout his life. Following the end of World War II, his family returned to their native country. However, they were often spurned because of their decision to leave Korea during the period of Japanese Colonial rule. Jeom quickly immersed himself again in the language and culture of his native country.

As a young man, he worked as a police car driver, a taxi driver, a mechanic, and ultimately served in the South Korean army as a 1st Sergeant during the Korean War. His work ethic and devotion to his country (and possibly his good looks) attracted his wife-to-be, Jung Hee, and, after a three-month courtship, they married in 1957. A son was born in 1964 and their daughter followed in 1972. This was the young family who immigrated to the United States in 1976, seeking a better life and future for their children.

On October 28, 1994, after 18 years of residence in this country, Mr. and Mrs. Bak became U.S. Citizens. They now have grandchildren who live nearby, and take great joy and pride in their family. Their grandson often serves as a “private tutor” for his grandfather, encouraging him to increase his English literacy and, in a role-reversal of the traditional grandparent-grandchild relationship, helping both Jeom and Jung Hee with homework assignments.

Their participation in our English program is an inspiration to our staff, volunteers and students. During a recent class, Jeom reported that his physician had requested that he make future appointments on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The proud and handsome 83-year old continued, “I told him ‘No!’ I have English class on those days and I cannot come. I am a student!” When the doctor insisted, he repeated, “I am a student!”

And so it goes. Each of our adult students brings a life story, and we help them to recount it with newfound English literacy skills. We not only teach them the language, we also give them the skills to live and thrive in our culture. Catholic Charities Atlanta strives to serve those who are in need to achieve their full potential, giving them hope and leading them to self-sufficiency and wholeness. Jeom’s simple yet profound statement, “I am a student!,” is clear evidence that, in some small way, we are succeeding.

About Catholic Charities Atlanta’s English Language Program
Catholic Charities Atlanta offers English language and civics instruction. Free classes are available to all adults over the age of 18 who are interested in improving their English language skills. Catholic Charities Atlanta also offers citizenship classes for adults who are applying for U.S. citizenship. Classes are offered in DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton and Hall counties. For more information, please call (770) 790-3104.

This blog written by Loretta Siefferman, Manager, Adult Education Services, Catholic Charities Atlanta.

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One Mom at a Time

Savannah-Blog

The Impact of Catholic Charities Atlanta’s In Home Parenting Education Program

Catholic Charities Atlanta provides in home parenting education to moms who lack support and are a part of a high risk population due to homelessness, domestic violence, mental health issues, and learning disabilities. Some of the moms we assist are also young, inexperienced, and ill-prepared for motherhood. Our goal is to help these mothers  become self-sufficient and provide them  with the skills necessary to effectively and lovingly parent their children and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Our caring, experienced Parent Specialist meets with over 30 women each year for a six to nine month parenting program. She visits these women in their home and helps them with basic parenting skills, baby safety, nutrition, child development, and budgeting. Additionally, the parenting specialist assists the moms with referral information for accessing and linking additional services that they may need (i.e. WIC, Medicaid applications, financial literacy, legal services and counseling.)

The Parent Specialist’s individualized work makes a significant impact on the lives of the moms who participate in this program. Below is one of the many letters that we receive from grateful clients who have benefitted from our parenting education program, called “Parent Talk.”

 “Some of the best things in life come unexpectedly.  I first heard of Catholic Charities Atlanta from a friend of mine, who recommended that I call and see what services I can get to help me take care of my daughter better. By the time I made my first call, I was seven months pregnant. The information I got was that there was a short waiting time period and someone would get back to me and luckily enough after giving birth and my daughter was a week old, I got the call, that it was my turn. In about two weeks I got to meet the social worker and that was the start of a very interesting learning adventure.

A lady by the name of Esther Gonzalez called me on the phone, a parent specialist, introduced herself and told me about Catholic Charities. She told me what to expect and finally we set up a day to meet. As I waited for the agreed upon date, a lot went through my mind.  Though she had told me what to expect, I still waited anxiously. I have learned a lot that I have applied in raising my baby girl. Esther handled and interacted with my daughter with much care and patience. She taught me safety, nutrition and what to expect at different stages of growth and development. I have used the informative handouts/booklets and videos as reference and guides so many times to raise my daughter. Esther listens too and I strongly believe that is one of the best characteristics that define a good person. Many of us, most of the time, need just someone to listen. Also, she was very concerned about our well being, in a way you cannot imagine. To sum it up, I would like to thank Catholic Charities for the wonderful help that I have received from them. Importantly, the parent teaching sessions, diapers, wipes, clothes, handouts/booklets, and videos that I have applied in raising my daughter. Also I want to thank Miss Esther Gonzalez, for the good heart and wonderful teachings, patience and listening. I would definitely recommend it to any mother out there.”

Thank you,
Savannah

About Our Parent Talk Program

Catholic Charities Parent Talk Program serves to educate, strengthen and support pregnant and parenting families to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment so that they may achieve their full potential.

We serve a diverse mix of clients (adults and teens), including high-risk expectant parents, new parents and other caregivers/guardians raising infants. Services focus on family support and early intervention.

Parent Talk is a voluntary intensive, parenting skills education program with services provided in your home including:

  • Assistance with goal setting to help moms meet their basic needs;
  • Free baby supplies and layettes when available
  • Counseling Services
  • Information and Referral
  • Case Management
  • Child/Family Assessments
  • Child Development Screenings

For more information, please contact our client intake line at 404-920-7745 or email ppahelp@catholiccharitiesatlanta.org.

Donate

The In Home Parenting Education Program is provided free of charge to the mothers who participate as most of them live below the poverty level and do not have the support of family. To help Catholic Charities Atlanta continue to provide this vital program for mothers in our community, please consider making a donation to our Mother’s Day Appeal by clicking here.

Additionally, we accept donations for new moms in the form of gift cards, diapers (newborn to size 4), wipes, pack and plays, baby toiletries, and baby rash creams.  To donate baby supplies, please contact Sandy Thompson at 404-920-7748 or by email at sthompson@catholiccharitiesatlanta.org.

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A Lesson in Servant Leadership

By Ben and Melanie Colley

This is an excerpt from a presentation given at the graduation of the Catholic Charities Atlanta 2011 Leadership Class by class members Ben and Melanie Colley.

Good Evening Everyone!

I remember being on our pre-cana retreat where couples came to speak to us, and thinking “I hope at some point in our faith journey someone asks us to speak as a couple”, so thank you for giving us this opportunity!

Often times when programs are new, the first year is a trial run, you learn from your mistakes, make changes and hope for a better next year.  But that’s definitely not the case with the Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class Program, and it’s hard to believe this is the inaugural year because it’s apparent how much hard work has gone into preparing each session.  From the speakers, to the delicious meals, the saint groups, the fundraising pages, the mentor workshop, the nametags, and above all the caliber of the mentors and classmates—no stone has been left unturned.

Learning About Catholic Charities Atlanta

Before this class began, I knew Catholic Charities Atlanta was a Catholic non-profit agency, based in Atlanta and affiliated with the Archdiocese, that they helped those in need, with a focus in providing refugee resettlement services.  I did not know that they provided assistance to non-Catholics, that over half the staff is bilingual, and that many employees were former clients.

When the program began in September, I remember pulling up to the Archbishop’s house, in the pouring rain, and walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces. After being handed my nametag with St. Francis on it, the leadership class officially kicked off.  The Saint group activity was a great start to breaking the ice among everyone.

Words of Inspiration from the Speakers

While we don’t have enough time to talk about all the sessions, some of the most inspirational moments for us include the authentic talk given by Mike Cote where he shared the quote “True Leaders are Mentors with a Servant’s heart”.  You have to be a true servant who is passionate about helping people in order to be a true leader.  It’s that simple.

I also enjoyed learning about his faith journey and realizing it takes time to get where you want to be in your prayer life; it doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to work at it every day. He gave us some great tools to do so.  It really hit home when he discussed getting daily readings on his phone to start the morning.  I thought to myself… ok – the first thing I do after the alarm goes off in the morning is check my email on my phone before I even get out of bed.  What is so important that it can’t wait until after a morning prayer?  So I started by saying a few “Hail Mary’s” before I allowed myself to read the emails, and even that little act has made me feel better.  It really made me realize that to be a servant leader you must make Christ the center of your day at the beginning of each day, even if this entails simply reciting a few “Hail Marys” or “Our Fathers”.

Dr. Thompson helped me understand that “God has created me to do him some definite service” by quoting Cardinal John Newman.  This was just enough to whet my appetite, so I went home and researched this quote and learned even more.  Cardinal John Newman goes on to say “I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.”  Isn’t this aligning exactly with part of the mission of this class?

I’m also appreciative to have learned “no success at work is worth failure at home”.  That’s important as this class is full of leaders.  It’s key to emphasize, and remember… no matter how great or demanding your job may be or how putting in extra hours at work might get you that promotion, it’s not worth it if it’s going to negatively impact your family.  Good food for thought!

There were a lot of takeaways in Dr. Voss’ presentation too, but the one that resonated greatest was when he said “Treat your Spouse, like they are your best client”.  I was so moved by this.  It seems so simple, yet I had never thought of something like that before. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and life, and not give your family the treatment they deserve.  What I’ve learned is that my husband IS my best client, and he deserves my undivided attention even more so than my work or outside activities.

Meeting Our Mentor

Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the activity where we were asked to create a timeline of our lives at the mentor workshop. The only guideline in creating this timeline was to utilize the space on the white sheet of paper.  I marked my years by dates, and significant milestones such as graduating college, becoming a Catholic, getting married, and buying a house.  Whereas, my mentor marked her years by each of the phases in her life.  She started her life as a learner, then a giver, a sharer, and now she’s a leader.  We were given the same project, but had totally different ways of completing it.  It was a great way to leap into the mentor program and help me understand that even though we all might have the same goal, we all have different ways of reaching that goal, and I’m looking forward to learning more about that through the mentorship program.  We’ve both already met with our mentors once, and are excited about the things we are going to learn.

Personal Testimonies from CCA Staff

Hearing all of the positive statistics regarding the organization’s performance is nice, but what really hit home with me from the workshops were the talks of 2 particular employees of Catholic Charities.  To hear the testimony of Pasupati Regmi and his journey from first coming to America, then living 17 years in a refugee camp, to now giving back as a staff member for Catholic Charities was a true joy. He exemplified the significant needs of many around us in Atlanta, the determination to overcome their situations when given some help and encouragement, and the desire to give back, pay it forward, and continue helping others in similar situations.

Further, Rosa de Kelly, the attorney on Catholic Charities staff, gave a poignant speech about being called in to a hospital room at 3 am by a client who had lost her son to cancer that night.  Rosa’s purpose for being there was to read the hospital documents and sign them on behalf of the mother who did not speak English.  This story gave me chills, and when Rosa mentioned after the fact that she has been in nonprofit for 6 years, spending most of her life in corporate law, I was stunned.  A fault of mine is to sometimes think that social workers are “called to serve.” How could someone like me, a bean counter, affect someone’s life in the same manner?  Rosa taught me that we all have the ability to serve in such heart-wrenching dilemmas, a gift provided to each of us through Jesus Christ.

Fundraising Challenges and Successes

Finally, I want to briefly share my experience on the fundraising efforts that each member of the graduating class was charged with doing.  Obviously, the financial contributions are essential to run the organization, and the class’ ability to raise $37,000 in 4 months is a testament to our hard work.  I gave a brief talk at my office highlighting the work that Catholic Charities does with the many refugees living in Metro Atlanta.  After the talk, I had a co-worker come up to me and mention that he and his wife had been talking for several weeks about getting more involved in the community. They had literally targeted Catholic Charities that week as the organization of choice, to volunteer both their time and talents; yet they were unaware of just how many ways they could help.  A three minute talk in front of a group of accountants led to a separate 15 minute discussion of faith with my coworker.  I am sure that he felt the Holy Spirit nudging him as I gave the talk on Catholic Charities, as I know I felt the Holy Spirit in me after he shared his excitement in beginning to work with the group.  One of the overarching themes of the class has been to not be afraid of living your faith in all facets of your life, and this moment for me was the epitome of why we as Catholics should strive for this integration.

Balance Between Faith, Family and Career

This class has taught us a lot on how to find a happy balance between faith, family, career, and the other aspects of life.  One of the best attributes of the class has been networking with parishioners from other churches, learning the various ways they are involved and the activities for which they participate.    I’ve also learned that through being involved in this program and fundraising that our efforts will impact the lives of many.  It has already given me so much spiritual food, and I can tell you – every time I received a “Catholic Charities Donation Alert email” that was a rush too!  It’s important that our efforts don’t stop here.  There are numerous ways to get involved through Catholic Charities Atlanta with our time, talent, and treasure, and now that we’ve learned just how much impact it has on the organization it’s important to share this with others, and to start thinking about the people for next year’s class.  Going forward, I strongly believe Catholic Charities Atlanta to be the link that fosters these inter-parish relationships in our community.

Words of Thanks

On behalf of the 2011 Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class, Thank you Archbishop Gregory for championing this class and engaging the Catholic leaders in the community for this endeavor.  Thank you to the Board, the advisory committee, and the staff at Catholic Charities Atlanta for your hard work and energy creating a successful first year.  And thank you to the mentors for giving your time to help create servant leaders out of us!  We look forward to staying involved and seeing the successes of the classes in the years to come!

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Highlighting CCA’s Counseling Staff

Catholic Charities Atlanta has 11 mental health counselors that provide services in 19 locations across the metropolitan Atlanta area and North Georgia. Sylvia Smith, one of counselors for the past three years, just became a Licensed Professional Counselor (LCP) in Georgia. Additionally, CCA Counselor Eglee Treber, LPC, recently become the first bi-lingual Play Therapy Supervisor in Georgia. Congratulations to our counseling staff!

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