MARTINSBURG—West Virginia Catholic Charities Eastern Regional Director Trina Bartlett succinctly explained how her organization touches the lives of many people.
“Our attendance is truly something different with each person we serve,” she said. “The organization, based on Catholic social teachings, is really about helping vulnerable people improve their situation.”
Often, the help provided comes in the form of financial assistance to people with an immediate need. Many who come through the doors of Catholic charities are referred by the Regional Resource Center or the Department of Health and Human Resources, Bartlett explained. Financial need usually stems from a lack of immediate resources for housing, utilities, or vehicle repair, although many other imminent needs exist.
Catholic Charities is one of many local faith-based nonprofits currently participating in the Unity 2022 campaign, a 12-day mass giving campaign organized by United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.
One of the primary goals of Catholic charities is to develop a relationship with each customer. Bartlett emphasized that clients do not have to be Catholic to receive services.
“We don’t ask people what their religious practice is,” she said. “We treat each individual as someone who matters. I think a lot of people who come to us don’t understand much.
“If we don’t have a relationship with them, we can’t help them,” she stressed, adding that the goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere and not come across as a sterile place.
Bartlett told the story of a letter received by program assistant Siobhán Bertone at the charity office of “Ann,” a woman in her 70s who had been incarcerated for 14 months and was soon to be released. In the letter, Ann explained that she had no family or friends, nowhere to go, no winter clothes, no ID or money, and several serious medical issues.
Bertone was able to contact Catholic charity partners through the Eastern Panhandle Recovery Council and arrange assistance for Ann.
By meeting via Zoom with Ann, the partners were able to help her apply for Medicaid and Medicare, apply for a new Social Security card and a copy of her birth certificate, which Bartlett said Catholic Charities regularly pays.
“The community responded to a call for clothing, food and other items, and Catholic Charities received many donations to help Ann,” Bartlett explained.
Catholic Charities even got Ann’s mail because she had no other address.
“Catholic Charities has been a godsend, and they’ve really helped me get up and put things together,” Ann said, shared by Bartlett. “Because on my own, I wasn’t going anywhere. They gave me directions, helped me get my food stamps, my health care, my insurance, my medicine, my check. If anyone is lucky enough to connect with them, please do so.
This example of how Catholic Charities has helped someone is just a brief overview of all the group has done and will continue to do.
“Over the years we’ve provided everything from work clothes and boots to (payphones) to help with storage facilities for people who don’t have a home and need a place to store their property,” Bartlett said. “The goal is to try to get people to a better place.”
Although Catholic Charities is a social service arm of the Catholic Church, it is not a religious organization. The diocese provides some funding; however, the group works hard to raise funds through fundraisers and grants. Being part of the Unity campaign is a key part of her fundraising plan that will help keep Martinsburg’s minimally staffed office operational.
It is in this office that Bartlett, who oversees four offices in the region, has his main office with a program assistant and two case managers. From this office, about 350 households were served in 2021. That breaks down into 218 children, 452 adults under the age of 64 and 18 seniors, according to data provided by Bartlett.
“It’s a lot of work for very few people,” she said.
To learn more about Catholic charities, people can call the office at 304-267-8837 or visit the West Virginia Catholic Charities website at www.CatholicCharitiesWV.org.
To donate to Catholic charities or any other non-profit organizations in the Unity 2022 campaign, visit the campaign page on the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle website, www.uwayep.org.