Shelter needs help from Christmas angels

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NATCHEZ — The wide-reaching arm of Catholic Charities is being forced to stretch even further, but the non-profit agency can’t meet that challenge without help from you.

When the Salvation Army closed its doors last month, Catholic Charities became the only local charity attempting to provide a wide-scope of services to needy people at all stages in life.

And the agency has just started to feel the effects of the Salvation Army’s closing, Director Martha Mitternight said.

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Requests for services are up, the cost of living is up and grants and donations have stayed static, she said.

The list of needs is long.

“We have close to 90 children we don’t have anything for (for Christmas) at this point,” Mitternight said. “If people are interested in helping us with that they can bring toys for any age. Gift cards are good too.”

Catholic Charities also provides gifts to the current residents of its battered women’s facility — The Guardian Shelter.

“We have a full house of women and children at this point,” she said. “This time of year, unfortunately, people have extra stressors with the holidays. Domestic violence comes to the forefront.”

Seven women and 14 children are currently at the shelter.

And in addition to Christmas presents, the Guardian Shelter is in need of household items — pots and pans, bed linens, silverware and more — to help the women set up a new, safe living arrangement.

Donations can be dropped off at the Catholic Charities office at 109 S. Union Street.

Monetary donations are also needed to keep the agency’s services alive.

Catholic Charities provides emergency assistance to local residents to keep utilities on and rent paid.

It also funds a preschool day-treatment program — in partnership with the Natchez Children’s Home — for children with mental and emotional disorders.

The Catholic Charities counseling program provides individual, family and marital counseling, and the Guardian Sexual Assault Center does prevention education with area schools and organizations.

Catholic Charities also organizes a group of volunteers who respond to calls from hospital staff who may have encountered a victim of abuse or other violence.

Anyone willing to volunteer their time can contact Catholic Charities at 601-442-4579.

Volunteers are also needed to work at the Guardian Collection Thrift Store. People who may only be able to work for a short period of time occasionally are encouraged to volunteer.

Mitternight said she has seen an increase in requests for help in every area.

“We are struggling to maintain the level of services with a lesser amount of money,” she said.

“Our phone rings constantly.”