Caring Choices’ Request Answered with Volunteers, Donations (Briana Grzybowski, Tennessee Register)

Posted 02/26/2016

For more than 20 years, Catholic Charities' Caring Choices Pregnancy and Adoption Resource Center has provided needy mothers and babies with diapers, wipes, strollers, cribs, baby clothing, and other baby and toddler gear through its Material Assistance Closet.

When the program's office was still at its St. Mary Villa location on White Bridge Road in Nashville, four volunteers kept the Closet running smoothly. But after Caring Choices moved to the new diocesan headquarters on McGavock Pike across Briley Parkway from the Opryland Hotel in 2015, two of the volunteers were unable to continue. The remaining two couldn't keep up with families' requests for assistance, and struggled to provide clients with help in a timely manner.

After months of stress and worry, Catholic Charities posted a request for help on its Facebook page in January 2016. The response has been overwhelming.

"Not long after the post went up, we were bombarded with responses from people wanting to help, and from new clients requesting assistance from us," said Julie Bolles, supervisor of Caring Choices. "We have six new volunteers staffing the Closet now, which makes it eight people in total.

Volunteers are entirely in charge of maintaining the Material Assistance Closet. "We have a hotline where needy families can put in requests for assistance," said Bolles. "They're allowed to call once every three months, and we have an honor system where we expect clients to keep their word and not abuse our help.

"Volunteers answer the phone, identify who the families are, and prepare the supplies so clients can come by to pick them up," Bolles explained.

It was a real struggle when two of the regular volunteers left last year. "Because of the longer commute, two of our volunteers had to leave," Bolles said. "On average, we receive 40-50 requests for help every month. At one point, we had 80 calls for help. And we try to answer requests in a matter of days. We were unable to do that since we were so overwhelmed."

The response to the request for help has eased the situation considerably. "Our office is open from 8-4:30, Monday through Friday, and we have volunteers here pretty much every day we're open," Bolles said. "We're still trying to coordinate everyone's schedules to make sure everything goes smoothly."

The additional help for the Closet has also meant clients from other Catholic Charities programs have been able to receive assistance.

"Since we've had this huge increase in volunteers, we've also had an increase in our monetary and material donations," Bolles said. "So now, clients from other Catholic Charities programs have been able to take advantage of the resources the Closet offers. We've been able to open it up to Refugee Services and people from our Family Empowerment program, for families at risk of homelessness."

Bolles feels blessed to see the outpouring of support for Caring Choices. "Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we emphasize that here at Catholic Charities. It's been great to see our new volunteers make that a reality," she said. "Donating time, treasure and talent is a wonderful way to give back to the community and meet the tangible needs of families in need."

SOURCE: (Page 5)

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