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The First Annual Caritas Client Turkey Trot Team

November 28, 2012

2012 Caritas Client Turkey Trot Team At Caritas of Austin, we realize that one of the greatest resources available to support our mission lies in the clients that we serve. Our clients are hard-working men and women who are determined to do what needs to be done to turn their lives around. Caritas works to provide a continuum of services for those experiencing poverty that begins with a safety net and links them to resources to achieve self-sufficiency, and we depend on our clients’ cooperation and dedication to make the most of opportunities for self-reliance.

Participation in the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot is an opportunity to empower a team of 25 Caritas clients and involve them in an Austin tradition that benefits Caritas. The idea for the Caritas Client Turkey Trot Team was conceived by Caritas board member Jennifer Cumberbatch and approved by our Executive Director, Jo Kathryn Quinn.

“There is dignity in the ability to give back to those who have helped you,” says Jo Kathryn, “Caritas is not only empowering our clients by helping them find housing and employment, but also by giving them the opportunity to show their support of Caritas along with others in the Austin community.”

2012 Caritas Client Turkey Trot TeamJennifer Cumberbatch organized and implemented this occasion for empowerment and support of Caritas; and its clients inspired excitement among other Austin community members about giving back and future possibilities of service. Luke Martinez, an avid marathon runner and new member of the Caritas of Austin Board of Directors, donated funds that accompanied an award he received from his company, Bank of America, for volunteerism and servant leadership in Austin. Mr. Martinez’s donation to Caritas supported this client effort by paying the entry fees and a portion of the cost for brand new running shoes, provided at a discounted price by Paul Carrozza, CEO of RunTex.

Royce Dennis, owner of the fitness and training business, Running With The Angels, Coach for St. Gabriel’s Middle School’s champion track team and Director of Glimmer of Hope Summer Camp helped prepare the team to run. The 25 clients who signed on to be a part of the Caritas Client Team were enthusiastic about this opportunity to be part of Austin’s 22nd annual Turkey Trot and were excited to participate in the first iteration of what will become an annual Caritas tradition.

Thanksgiving morning, the day of the race, the Caritas Client Team gathered at the Caritas building to receive their Turkey Trot t-shirts and mentally prepared themselves for the race. From there, the team rode together to the Long Center and took their places on the Congress Avenue Bridge to begin the race. One of the team members had the 9th best time – out of 23,000 runners. After every team member had completed their run, they reconvened, and Jennifer Cumberbatch, VP Resource of the Caritas Board of Directors, treated them to a celebratory meal, where everyone gave thanks for their team members’ generosity of time, talent, energy and spirit.

2012 Caritas Client Turkey Trot TeamCaritas of Austin is thankful for all of the support from our neighbors in the Austin community. We are glad to be able to continue to provide resources and opportunities for self-reliance for those in need. We are so grateful to benefit from the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot, Austin’s annual Thanksgiving Day tradition, and to make a difference in the lives of over 20,000 homeless, working poor and documented refugees in Travis County each year.

Caritas–your partner in the community

November 12, 2012

Be our partner.

When you are considering a partner…you do your homework to be sure they are the best at what they do. That they know what they’re doing, they aren’t going to experiment with your time and money.

Caritas is a partner with the community. We’re your partner on the front lines and in the trenches working with people in the lowest strata of the socio-economic structure. We’re the middle partner in a three way partnership between you and our clients. We act on behalf of the larger community – and we’re enthusiastic about doing so.

What exactly are we doing? Many and likely some of you reading this think we merely serve lunch to the street homeless. Yes, we serve lunch to people no questions asked. But Caritas of Austin is so much more than a soup kitchen. Day in and day out Caritas is providing comprehensive services, working with people over a period of time sufficient to stabilize their household. I’ll use a medical metaphor. Caritas is not in the business of simply providing a “band aid” to situations that require major surgery.

This year at Caritas

  • 435 international fully documented refugees will make a safe home in Austin and become integrated members of the community.
  • 252 people will increase their financial literacy.
  • 440 people will get a job.
  • 133 people who once made their home on the street will enjoy safe and decent housing
  • 115 Veteran households will be prevented from falling into homelessness
  • 100 Single Veterans will leave life on the streets and obtain safe and stable housing
  • 297 households will be prevented from falling into homelessness and will establish stable housing.

Caritas provides services to the most vulnerable and hardest to serve populations in Austin: households fleeing persecution from across the globe, people at risk of dying on the street and households on the brink of falling into homelessness.

You can be confident in our part of the partnership. We know what we’re doing. We use proven methods that work. We have data that demonstrates the success of our work.

Caritas is a partner with our clients. We work side by side with them to jointly plan a stable, bright future; knowing that a brighter future for them means one for all of us as well. Their best interest is ours.

Partnership implies equality – equal partners

When Caritas begins partnering with one of our clients, our part is professionalism, skill and compassion. With the client, the social work and employment professional cultivates an important relationship; in the context of which critical changes happen that create opportunity for economic independence.

The client’s part of the partnership is strength. Society often considers them weak; and in fact they come to us in times of weakness – but they have amazing strength. Strength not valued in our society where superficial power is elevated above inner might.

Our professional staff uses strengths-based models to pull clients’ muscle to the surface. We insist on it. The greatest gift to our clients is engaging them in a process of clear recognition of the assets they bring to the table. Our goal is always to transform the relationship from an “us-them” relationship to simply an “us” relationship.

I invite you to become our sustaining partner by investing your money and/or time in an endeavor that works. One that works to connect people to employment, puts people in stable homes, and provides them opportunities for self-reliance. You can make a donation on our web site www.caritasofaustin.org

Grateful for your partnership,

Jo Kathryn Quinn

Executive Director

Committed to Housing the Homeless

October 17, 2012

It is unfortunate that Jessica Holloway of KVUE news identified Caritas of Austin as a homeless shelter. Caritas of Austin has been in this community since 1964 and has never operated a homeless shelter. Caritas is committed to HOUSING vulnerable populations. While shelters have become a mechanism in our nation and local community for responding to homelessness, it has been proven to be ineffective in addressing the structural components in our community that perpetuate homelessness. Unfortunately it has become a necessary system to protect people in homeless situations from life on the streets. Hopefully soon Austin will need less and less shelter capacity. Affordable housing and creating opportunities for people to emerge from poverty are the primary “answers” to effectively addressing homelessness — making it rare, short-term and non reoccurring. This is Caritas of Austin’s goal. Voting YES for Proposition 15 is vital to provide affordable housing for the most vulnerable populations in Austin.

- Post Authored by Jo Kathryn Quinn, Executive Director at Caritas of Austin

in response to this report by KVUE reporter Jessica Holloway

Caritas Shines at CHEP Conference in Miami

October 1, 2012

In late August, when Hurricane Isaac and the Republican National Convention were in full-swing in Florida, six Caritas staff members and one Caritas client braved the elements and traveled to Miami to attend the annual National Cuban/Haitian Entrant Program (CHEP) Conference.

CHEP is a federally funded program focused on providing reception, processing, and resettlement services to both Cubans and Haitians who are released from immigration custody. The main goal of the program is to facilitate the clients’ self-sufficiency via employment services.

There were approximately 120 participants at the conference including representation from all U.S . CHEP resettlement sites – e.g. Caritas of Austin, Office of International Operations/Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Office of Health & Human Services – and other federal partners and funding sources.

Caritas Staff members present at the conference were excited to learn that Caritas is a Cuban/Haitian resettlement site that has met and exceeded the national average, 60-70%, for job placement of Cuban refugees. During their presentation describing the impact refugee resettlement sites around the country have had on job placement, a federal partner said “Caritas of Austin leads the nation in Job Placement Services to refugees with an 85% success rate.”

The Caritas client, a Cuban medical professional, participated in a Cuban refugee panel and shared his resettlement experience. He spoke very positively about his Caritas resettlement experience and also announced that he had passed his first U.S. medical board exam as part of his journey to re-enter his profession as a doctor of ophthalmology.

Austin Teen Makes Remarkable 5th Annual Donation to the Caritas Pantry

September 18, 2012

Caritas of Austin has had the privilege of benefiting from the generosity of one inspirational Austin teen for the past 5 years.

Bridget Boushka

Bridget Boushka makes an oustanding donation of 3,550 pounds of food and hygiene items to the Caritas Pantry.

Bridget Boushka, who became involved with Caritas through a volunteer project at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School where she and her classmates put together sack lunches, and was inspired by the experience to help even more. At the age of 12 she set out to make a difference in the lives of those in need and organized an annual food drive in her neighborhood benefiting Caritas of Austin.

Five years later, 17 year old Bridget is beginning her senior year at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy. Bridget balances a busy schedule between applying to colleges, swimming, and excelling in her academics, and yet she still finds time to give back to her community.  This year Bridget collected an incredible 3,550 pounds of food and hygiene items, $500 worth of H-E-B grocery cards, 16 30-day bus passes and a generous financial donation, that will benefit Caritas clients.

Throughout her five years of kindhearted service, Boushka has perfected her system for collection. Her success measured over time has grown from 542 pounds in its first year and 2,556 pounds last year. With this year’s drive, Boushka now boasts a total of 9,650 pounds donated.

Executive Director for Caritas of Austin, Jo Kathryn Quinn says “Bridget has been a great asset to the Caritas community for the past 5 years. Her passion for philanthropy is inspiring to those around her, and her dedication to service is admirable. She is a great role model for the youth of Austin, and I am sure she has a bright future to look forward to.”

Bridget has certainly made an astounding impact on the lives of Caritas Clients who benefit from the Pantry, and is an undeniably generous member of our community.

Caritas Announces New Executive Director

June 27, 2012

 

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The Caritas of Austin Board of Directors is pleased to announce Jo Kathryn Quinn has accepted the position of Executive Director for Caritas of Austin.  Quinn has served as the Director of Housing Services at Caritas for seven years and during her tenure has assisted thousands living in and facing homelessness access services ranging from rent and utility assistance to permanent supportive housing. 
 
 Caritas Board of Directors President, David Sheldon says, “After completing an extensive search, the Board is eager to utilize the experience and talents Quinn has demonstrated in her tenure at the agency.  Jo Kathryn is not only an advocate for the homeless; she is a pioneer.  Throughout her career she has navigated issues surrounding our state’s most vulnerable populations with poise and perseverance. She brings a vast amount of knowledge, professionalism and dedication to her new position.”
Effective June 25, Quinn follows former Executive Director, Beth Atherton, who resigned in February of this year.  Since that time, Susan Hartenstein, Chief Financial Officer, has served as Interim Executive Director.

Client Connects Through Art

February 27, 2012

After losing his job with Waco Tribune-Herald, his main source of income, Eugene hit a tough road in life. He decided to move to Austin to stay with his brother who was also encountering financial difficulty.  Believing they could help each other overcome mutual challenges, Eugene says, “I thought I would stay with my brother, help him out; but I ended up running out of money and became homeless in February of 2010.”

Eugene, a veteran, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 until 1992. Because of his service he qualified for veterans’ assistance and moved into transitional housing where he stayed for two years trying to pull his life back together. He found it difficult, however, to find stability when all of his belongings remained in storage and roommates were moving in and out. With talent in photography and art, and an associates degree in graphic design, Eugene sought to reunite with his passion in art.

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Eugene's comic sketches are currently featured at the Hideout Theater

Eugene had visited Caritas in the past and eaten lunch in the Community Kitchen, but was unsure of the services available to him.  Once he was referred to Caritas for help with housing he was surprised when Caritas was able to provide a deposit for a new place to live.  Eugene says he finally feels settled. “Now I feel a whole lot better in my own place and I can concentrate more on my art.” He recently joined two sketch groups that meet on Sundays and even has his comic sketches featured at the Hideout Theater in Austin.

Eugeneis also taking courses at Caritas on communication, employment skills and healthy eating habits which he believes are helping him become a better person.

Eugene still has many challenges and difficulties to deal with, such as physical health issues and depression. He is also still searching for a job.  “It is not easy to find a job in the art field in Austin where competition is high; however, I now feel motivated and empowered,” he said.

Author: Dina Shehata

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