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Catholic Charities collects year’s funds in December

With city, state and federal funding dropping for programs serving the poor, Catholic Charities has reduced its staff and readjusted its budget while needs of people have grown consistently over the past three years, said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities Spokane.

“State cuts are huge,” he said  “Senior services will be reduced.  Cuts in basic health will affect all the families we serve.  We realized two years ago we needed to plan with substantive cuts in mind.  We budgeted with the worst case in mind.”

Added to that, Rob said, annual donations have been down for three years, as for many nonprofits.  To live within the budget, Catholic Charities has had to lay off some staff, cutting 21 positions in 2010.  In 2011, they plan some reduced hours, but no layoffs.

Meanwhile, Rob said, “needs have gone through the roof for services in all programs, but we have kept our programs open.

“We are serving the same number of people with fewer people to do the same amount of work or more,” Rob said.

With more pressure on the staff, he is concerned about burnout and compassion fatigue as staff responds to “the immense suffering of people we serve every day.”

Program directors watch for signs of stress and support staff, encouraging their sense of being servant leaders.

While needs and shortages seem insurmountable, they have been accompanied by an increase in volunteers.  Many people who are out of work and looking for something to do and many former donors who can no longer give as much are offering their time.

Rob estimates a 10 to 20 percent increase in the number of volunteers.  About 5,200 now serve in Catholic Charities’ programs in 13 Eastern Washington counties.

In December, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America serve 30,000 people at the Fairgrounds, providing toys, clothes, food and gifts at the annual Spokesman-Review Christmas Bureau.

Catholic Charities also raises all its funds for its 2011 programs in its annual month-long Christmas Collection.  A Candlelight Vigil on Nov. 22 launched the collection and raised awareness about effects of poverty and homelessness on the community.  Supporters, staff, board, volunteers and clients walked around the block, singing carols and praying.

“We continue to see tremendous new struggles for the poor as they seek work, stability for their children, and simply try to survive. Many social service agencies have lost large amounts of public funding, and private donations have declined as well,” Rob said, urging support of the programs serving 67,000 people.

“Several years ago when the state was $8 billion in the hole, we realized we needed to be less dependent on government funding,” he said.

Scott Cooper, director of Parish Social Ministries with Catholic Charities, pointed to another anticipated cut.

As a primary childcare provider at St. Anne’s Children’s and Family Center, he said, Catholic Charities is concerned about the state cutting child care subsidy by lowering the qualifier from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 175 percent.

“That will leave many families without the ability to have child care while the parents are working,” Scott said.

St. Anne’s Children’s and Family Center serves about 65 households through the Department of Social and Health Services’  Working Connections program.

Scott said that these are families who have gone through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and are working.  The childcare supports their transition from welfare to work.

The center dedicates a third of its slots for Working Connections families.  The other two-thirds of households pay the market rate, helping offset the Working Connections slots, he said.

For information, call 458-4250 or email