Bishop’s Annual Appeal Supports Vital Ministries (Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

Posted 02/12/2016

If you want a testimony on the value of Catholic Charities' Senior Enrichment Center, just ask Gail Allen, whose late husband participated in the program for four years. "We absolutely loved it," she said. "I could stand on a soap box and tell people about it."

Allen's husband Jimmy died two years ago, but she's still involved with the program as a volunteer. "I love the staff and being there."

The Senior Enrichment Center (formerly known as the Adult Day Program) offers a supervised and structured environment where senior adults with mental and physical limitations can spend the day while their primary caregivers can work and have a break from caregiving duties.

"One of the populations of greatest need in our community is our seniors," said Bill Sinclair, executive director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee. "There's also the fewest resources out there to help them."

The Center relies heavily on the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries to keep it afloat; the Appeal accounts for nearly half of the Center's annual operating expenses. "Without the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries we would not have a program," said Sinclair.

In order to keep costs low for Senior Enrichment Center participants, fees are based on a sliding scale.

Additionally, the Center is operating under capacity at the moment, with about a dozen participants, but has room for six more. "I think it's because a lack of knowledge about the program and the benefits it provides to caregivers," said Senior Center Director Lesia Walker.

Walker, who became director four months ago, said one of her goals is to build more community partnerships with doctors' offices, churches, and others to increase awareness of the program. She plans to undertake "an all-out aggressive effort to educate people about the benefits."

One of the most obvious benefits of the program is that it provides a stimulating environment for seniors who might otherwise become isolated in their homes.

When Gail Allen married her husband Jimmy, she was still working full time and wasn't ready to quit. Jimmy, 10 years her senior and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, was bored and lonely spending most days home alone.

Then the Allens learned about Catholic Charities' Senior Enrichment Center and Gail Allen knew they had a solution. "St. Mary's was a Godsend," she said. "Jimmy was a gift in my life, and so was St. Mary's."

The Center, located at the St. Mary Villa campus on White Bridge Road, is open five days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers activities like art and music therapy, exercise, pet visits and bingo.

Even though her husband passed away two years ago, Gail still spends time at the Center three days a week. "I hug them, and dance with them if they want, and help with lunch," she said of her interaction with the participants.

The Senior Enrichment Center relies heavily on volunteers, who are "vital to helping us function as effectively as we do," said Walker. Volunteers can do any number of activities from reading the newspaper aloud to providing manicures for the clients.

Walker, who was raised by her grandmother and has always been drawn to being with and learning from older adults, said this job is her passion and her ministry. The clients "are like my extended family," she said.

Walker wants the entire Nashville community to know that the Senior Center is a viable way for some families to keep their elderly loved ones living at home longer. "This is an option where you can put mom (or dad) in a safe and secure environment and have peace of mind," she said. "Our motto is to change how you live, not where you live."

More information about the Catholic Charities Senior Enrichment Center is available by contacting Lesia Walker at (615) 760-4408 or Information is also available at

Clients at the Catholic Charities Senior Enrichment Center participate in a variety of daily activities including coloring and reading. The Center is a recipient of the Bishop Annual Appeal for Ministries and offers the service to local families based on a sliding scale fee.

Still time to pledge to Annual Appeal

Funds raised through the 2016 Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries will support a wide range of ministries in the diocese, including Catholic Charities of Tennessee's Senior Enrichment Center and service to the poor, Catholic education, lay ministry formation, pastoral outreach, youth ministry, and more.

The theme for this year's Appeal is taken from St. Paul's letter in 1 Corinthians 15:3: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received."

"Jesus taught with love," Bishop David Choby said. "It is love that called the disciples into service, and love that calls us to serve one another. In these acts of love we find mercy."

The goal for the 2016 Annual Appeal for Ministries is $1.9 million. The Appeal began on Feb. 1, 2016, and continues through Jan. 31, 2017.

This year's Appeal kicked off on Announcement Weekend Jan. 30-31, which was followed by Pledge/Appeal Weekend on Feb. 6-7. Follow-up Weekend Feb. 13-14 will give parishioners another opportunity to make a pledge and turn in their pledge cards.

Pledges can be placed in the collection basket at Mass, turned in to the parish, or mailed to the diocesan offices at 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37214.


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