In 2010, a string of deadly tornados tore through Millbury, Ohio leaving very little to come to for Sandy and Bruce Tucker. 

Life for retirees Sandy and Bruce Tucker in Millbury was tranquil.  Their house sat in the midst of a heavy wooded area in a small town surrounded by the peaceful noise of nature.

“We thought that we had paradise,” Sandy says.  “We live out in the deep woods very private,” Bruce adds.  “You couldn’t even hear cars or trains.”

In June of 2010, the Tuckers decided to take a vacation to Daytona Beach, Florida.  Shortly after arriving to their destination, Sandy and Bruce received an urgent phone call.

“My son called me,” Bruce says.  “He said we needed to come home.”

While the couple was in Florida, a string of deadly tornadoes ripped through the quiet towns of Millbury, Lake Township, and other surrounding towns.  The tornados destroyed almost everything in their path, including the wooded paradise the Tuckers called home.

“If we would’ve been home, we would’ve died,” Bruce says.  “The house was 85 percent gone.” Sandy explained. Bruce and Sandy lost everything that day.

“We were bewildered,” Bruce remembers.   “We were sort of like in a daze.  We lived in motels and rented a house.  We had to completely gut everything”

Rebuilding their home was a challenge and finding financial assistance to help clear debris was even more difficult.

“It was really hard to get assistance,” Bruce says.  “Our insurance covered the house and its contents. Outside, it didn’t cover a thing.”

After weeks of recovery, the couple’s prayers for financial aid were answered through a divine message from God.

“We were in church one Sunday and we heard about Catholic Charities’ assistance for tornado victims.”  Sandy says.

Sandy and Bruce contacted Catholic Charities and applied for financial assistance through the Disaster Relief program located in Mansfield, Ohio.

“About a month later we received money from Catholic Charities to use for stomp removal and tree clearance,” Bruce says.

With help from Catholic Charities, community volunteers and organizations, Sandy and Bruce were able to move back into their home November 2010. Now, the couple is back to hosting family gatherings and enjoying their new serenity of beautiful open fields left behind after the massive tree removal.

“My advice to others, It’s not the end of the world. It may look like but it’s not. It gets better day by day,” says Bruce.

Life after the devastating event has never been exactly the same for the couple.  But the union of community volunteers and organizations like Catholic Charities has truly restored their faith in humanity.

“There are a lot of good people out there” says Richard.  “We can’t say thanks enough.” Sandy adds.

A New Take on Adoption

It started with an email five years ago from Brenda Starr-Jude, Adult Advocacy Staff Guardian, at Catholic Charities.  During the holiday season, Brenda was looking for donors and volunteers to adopt an elderly client through Catholic Charities’ Project Bethlehem program.

“Most people tend to forget about seniors during the holidays,” says Brenda. “My clients, the majority of them, have no one visiting except for me.”

A lot of Brenda’s senior clients in the Guardianship Program are wards of the state who have little or no family and are unable to take care of themselves.

Brenda reached out to Jana, a 6th grade teacher at Eastern Elementary School.

“I asked the other sixth grade teachers if they would be interested in doing this together,” says Jana.

Every year since then, students and their teachers – Jana, Joni and others – adopted a senior through the Catholic Charities’ program.  

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to think of other people,” Jana continues.  

In recent years, they have adopted two seniors whom they have nicknamed “Grandma Virginia” and “Grandpa Herman.”  During the holiday season, the students bring in monetary donations to help purchase gifts from their adopted grandparents’ Christmas wish list.

img_0868Last year, Grandpa Herman — who was diagnosed with a form of dementia — needed a flat panel television that could be mounted onto his wall for safety reasons.  Joni and her students decided to step up to the task.

“That was our goal, and the students were really excited that we had enough money to buy him the T.V.,” Joni says.

When it came time to deliver the presents, Grandpa Herman was overjoyed.  As Brenda walked into his room with the neatly wrapped television, she asked, “Mr. P., do you want to open this?” He responded with excitement, “Oh no, it’s too big!”

The giving does not stop after Christmas.  Throughout the year, the students participate in projects to send to their adopted grandparents.

“We try to remember them during the major holidays: Thanksgiving, their birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day.  This Halloween, we bought them candy,” Joni and Jana said.   

Grandma Virginia loves to show Brenda the messages the students write on her cards.

img_0871“It’s impacted both of their lives, but it’s been especially wonderful for Virginia,” Brenda says.  “She is fully alert, and the students have become like extended family to her.  She was only married for four or five years and never had any children.  She’s told me they’re like her grandchildren.” 

“It’s not just a one-time giving project during the holiday season,” Brenda adds.  It’s truly an adoption.”

Evenings at the Roell’s house are far from uneventful.  With two bright pre-teen girls and two very active toddlers, there is never a dull moment for parents Kendra and Richard.

roell-family-outside A few years ago, the Roell’s decided to open their home and hearts to adoption.

“We lost our son because of a genetic illness and any children we would have had after would have developed that illness,” Richard explains.

“We couldn’t have any children on our own anymore,” Kendra says. “But we still had this desire to love children.”

Bringing Hope

Kendra and Richard took a year to grieve and talk over the idea of adopting their next child.

After reviewing several agencies in the area, the Roell’s decided that Catholic Charities was the right fit for their family.

“The thing I enjoyed was that they cared about the baby, the birth mom, and the entire situation,” Richard explains.

It was not long before a beautiful baby girl named Hope came into their lives.

carolyn-1 The family has an open adoption arrangement with Hope’s birth mother, Carolyn. 

“It wasn’t our initial preference, but it was a step out in faith,” Richard says.

“It’s been nice because honesty has ruled from the time we have been with Carolyn and that will carry forth in our relationship with Hope,” Kendra says.

“Hope will always know and understand they situation. She’s going to know who Carolyn is and she will know who we are. I think open adoption is a great thing,” Richard adds.

The family maintains contact with Carolyn by phone, text message and email.  They even schedule meetings throughout the year to keep Carolyn posted on Hope’s development and progress. 

A Second Blessing

A few months after the Roells settled into a new life with baby Hope, they learned of an infant in need of foster care.

“It was unexpected,” Richard recalls.  “We knew we wanted to adopt a second child, but we wanted to wait another year.  We got a call from Catholic Charities saying we have a child, and we can’t place him.”

The baby’s name was Emery, and his birth mother had a history of mental illness and drugs. Health complications from Emery’s birth made it difficult to find a suitable home for him.  Kendra and Richard were asked if they would be willing to foster the child until placement.

But Kendra and Richard decided to make Emery a permanent part of their family.

“He’s been a joy,” says Richard.  “There have been problems with the drug exposure, but nothing we can’t handle.”

Moving Forward

After adopting the two children, they describe life as nothing short of a blessing.

“Our life seems easier to move forward now,” says Kendra. “There seems to be purpose again. They need me, and I need them.”

“As wild and busy as it is, I couldn’t imagine life without them,” Richard adds with a smile on his face.

The Hearts of Our Runners

Thanks to our team runners, we had a very successful year at the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon. As a team, we raised over $40,000 and counting! Through their donations, thousands of people in Northwest Ohio can rely on a hot meal, a warm bed and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Why They Ran

A few of our marathon runners gave us some feedback as to why they dedicated so much of their time and resources to helping Catholic Charities and here are a few of their answers:

I think it’s good to be in something that gives back to other people. It’s about going outside yourself to help others. ~Jeffery Smith, Diocesan Seminarian, Runner

Our school got involved for the Health and Wellness grant that will help our students  immensely. Once we explained to the students the services that are provided at Catholic Charities, they were excited to get involved. The students held penny wars and one student sold lollipops to help raise money. Why wouldn’t you want to get involved in such a great cause? ~Beth Strbik, Principal of Blessed Sacrament, Runner

It’s for reasons other than just yourself. I felt like I could raise money and I wanted to do that to help others. I knew that even if I couldn’t make it across the finish line, at least I would be helping other people in need. ~Ashleigh Pennington, Runner

I thought that it was good to run for a cause. It makes me feel better that I did it for a purpose. My family and I have nothing to complain about in life compared to the people that Catholic Charities helps. Why not help extend that hand? ~Dennis DeLapp, Runner

I saw the announcement for the Catholic Charities Marathon team in my church bulletin. I was planning to run anyways so I figured I’ll join the team. It’s for a great cause and your helping others. ~Diane Dunbar, Runner

For more information about our team or to help us reach our goal, please go to our team page at: catholiccharitiesteam.kintera.org

Our Runners in Action

Participants who attend a Basic Budgeting Skills workshop will be entered twice in a drawing for a gift card. The two-hour workshops are hosted by Catholic Charities in Erie and Huron Counties.

Participants will learn to take control of their finances by learning how to budget, save for the future and pay off debt.

“Research has shown that at least 50 percent of the population does not know what or how to budget,” said Roxanne Sandles, Catholic Charities Housing Program Coordinator. “When you have the skills and knowledge to make wise choices with your money, you reduce stress and gain control of your situation. The comment we hear the most is, ‘I didn’t know it was that easy.’ Others attendees have said they have made significant changes in their household budget based on what they learned.”

For workshop dates, times, locations and to register, please contact Catholic Charities at 419-668-3073, ext. 103 or msommers@toledodiocese.org. Funding for the workshops is provided by Norwalk Area United Fund and GeoTrac Foundation.

As guests turn in their tickets in exchange for a glass wine flute, they are escorted into a beautiful backyard garden decorated with tents and lawn chairs.  Several tables of hors d’oeuvres, desserts, finger foods and wines are spread throughout the patio area.

It’s a casual affair that created an inviting feeling for guests as the live Gospel vocals of Yvette Miller filled the September air.

cheese-appetizers The event was a grassroots effort by the Good Works Committee of St. Joseph Church in Maumee. In its fifth year, the Good Works Wine and Cheese fundraiser has raised a total of $50,000 for Helping Hands of St. Louis in East Toledo. Helping Hands is a ministry of Catholic Charities that serves an average of 300 hot meals a day and provides additional assistance through a food pantry and clothing center.

One of the committee members and a host of the event, Ardis Dardenne, started as a volunteer at Helping Hands and eventually became a Helping Hands board member.

ardis-and-ft-stripe“I think the Holy Spirit called and suggested that I contact Helping Hands to see if they need help,” she says of how she got started.

She credits the homilies of her pastor, Fr. Keith Stripe, for inspiring her desire to help others. “We have a group of volunteers who go down to Helping Hands from St. Joseph, and we cook for the people there once every six weeks,” she says.

The Good Works Wine and Cheese Fundraiser started as a small gathering to raise funds for Helping Hands and eventually grew into a grand annual occasion. This year’s event raised approximately $7,500.

“It’s great camaraderie with the people at St. Joseph, and it raises critical funds to provide food, clothing and personal hygiene items for the people we serve,” said Paul Cook, director of Helping Hands.

guest-at-wine-and-cheese-event More than 300 tickets were sold for this year’s event and about 98 individuals and businesses donated gifts to be auctioned off, including the University of Toledo and Toledo Museum of Art.

The event was made possible because of the strong desire of many people like Ardis to help those who are less fortunate.

“I have the urge to help the poor. Our religion teaches us to help and feed the poor,” she explains. “By nature, I’m a volunteer.”

In the town of Lima, you can’t help but look at the massive buildings that sit behind the snowy fields. Most of these buildings are state correctional facilities that have housed thousands of inmates over the years.

The brick building, known as Allen Correctional Institution, is where Sue Bishop and her team of 40 volunteers go about four times a year to minister to the inmates behind these prison doors.

“We want our inmates to walk away knowing that God loves them and that there are people out there who care,” Sue says.

Giving God a Chance

From Friday to Sunday, the inmates and volunteers join together to pray, share stories and participate in activities. They end the weekend with Sunday Mass. prison-ministry-team-cropped

“We have a turnout of about 100 inmates,” says another volunteer, Leanne Kerschner. “At Mass in the prison, everybody’s participating, everybody’s praying, everybody’s singing. It’s just a really great atmosphere. It’s wonderful.”

Greg participated in several retreats during his time at Allen Correctional from 1988 to 2007.

“I was wandering aimlessly. I thought I’d just do my time and get out and go home,” he says. “I’d been away from church for a while. Then the light came on.”

The prison chaplain suggested Greg give God a chance and attend the retreats. Hearing the volunteers talk about their own experience of overcoming problems helped Greg take a fresh look at his life.

“You can be humbled to realize you have so much when you feel like you don’t have anything,” he says.

After going on more retreats, he found a new sense of purpose. He was confirmed in his childhood Catholic faith by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly while still in prison. With a new direction in life, he spent his free time at Allen Correctional studying tax law and taking college classes. He graduated with a financial degree from Ohio University while still incarcerated.

He credits Sue and her team for helping him get to where he is now – a faithful church member and owner of his own business. He also reaches out to those just released from prison to help them reintegrate into society.

Whoever is Forgiven Much

“We minster to a lot of guys who just made bad choices,” Sue says. “The faith of some of these guys is amazing.”

Leanne agrees: “I think it goes back to the Bible verse that says whoever is forgiven much, loves much. Knowing that they are forgiven from something big makes them love more.”

Sue remembers an inmate who had strong hopes of getting parole but was denied. “I was crushed,” she says. “We got there and I said, ‘I don’t even know what to say.’ ”

She pauses again and with a soft tone in her voice says, “He turned to me and said ‘It’s ok … God has something else planned for me.’”

Greg thanks the team for making a difference in his life.

“They have their struggles in life, but they still found time for us,” he says. “It put me in the right direction, and let me know God’s always there.”

Last Thursday morning started a little differently for the Helping Hands of St. Louis staff and volunteers. In the early morning hours, the outreach center’s team worked hard to finish a second batch of hot meals, which were delivered that afternoon to local Toledo-area fire departments as part of a local “Adopt a Fire Station” cause.

Paul Cook and Lt Ron The tragic deaths of on-duty firefighters, Private Stephen Machcinski and Private James Dickman, took the area by shock and hit close to home for Helping Hands’ crew members, including the center’s director, Paul Cook, whose son is a firefighter for Sylvania Township.

“We are in close association with the St. Thomas Boys Scouts, Troop 57. Five (former scouts) went on to become firefighters along with my son, Mike,” says Cook. “You don’t know what they will run into. We’re always appreciative for what they do to protect us.”

Community grassroots efforts, including “Adopt a Fire Station,”  were started by local individuals, groups and organizations to show support and appreciation for those who risk their lives daily to help others.

Paul Cook and Station 2 Firefighters Paul Cook and his staff wanted to do their part in saying thanks to local emergency personnel in the best way they knew how, whipping up a great meal.

Firefighters at Station 2 in Sylvania and Station 6 in South Toledo were able to enjoy baked pork and gravy, garden salads and mashed potatoes.

“It’s a way of giving back and paying ahead,” Cook says. “We just want to tell the Fire Department, thank you.”  

Angela was a single mom living in Norwalk with her two young sons, Noah and Chase. She worked three jobs and did her best to support her family.

“I was the typical soccer mom,” she says. “I took my kids to baseball and football practice, Cub Scouts and all of their activities. We lived a good life – we lived a great life! We went to Cedar Point every summer, had Valley Beach passes and had a cleaning lady.”

But then things suddenly changed. Angela arrived at her primary job one day and found something unexpected. “The doors were locked and a sign said, ‘Please report to Huron County Job and Family Services,’ ” she remembers.

Angela With the news of being laid off and no main source of income, Angela began having trouble making ends meet. “I started struggling immediately. Rent wasn’t being paid. My van was repossessed. I cancelled all amenities immediately, and I was down to gas and electric.”

Stuck with two part-time jobs that barely supported the family of three, Angela searched for other options. At the beginning of 2009, Angela and her two sons settled into Catholic Charities’ Miriam House in an effort to restore everything that they had lost.

“Angela was a wonderful person and very pleasant to be around,” says Marla Sommers, case manager for Catholic Charities. “She would get up early and do her chores. She would even walk to her job every day.”

Weekly meetings with the house staff members helped Angela create goals, find work attire and set life plans. The staff also brought in business representatives from a local college to teach residents how to create resumes.

“I set three goals for myself: to find stable employment, to rebuild relationships with family and to find a vehicle.” Within the first month, Angela had accomplished her first two goals. She even saved enough money to buy a car six months later.

“Angela was a focused lady. She just had this determination that her life was going to change,” said Marla.

Today, Angela is a certified STNA, a college tutor and a full-time student studying at Ross College for a Medical Assistant degree. She is now living completely on her own.

Angela shows her appreciation for Miriam House by finding time to donate and visit the place that helped her and other women get back on their feet. “I feel like I can’t do enough. It’s a low spot in your life, and Miriam House is there to raise you back up and get you on the right track. That’s the whole purpose of the place. The staff believed in me. I knew they believed in me.”

 

“A friend told me about La Posada. I came and I was surprised because it doesn’t look like a shelter. It looks just like a home. I was so glad when they told me we could stay. They’ve been so good to me. Honestly, none of this would be happening if I hadn’t been here. They’ve helped me so much.” – Marquita, La Posada resident

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love that God has for each individual person regardless of their faith or background by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

 

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