A busy summer at Catholic Social Services in Anchorage

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Summers are a busy time at Catholic Social services (CSS). Here’s some of what’s been happening.

We kicked off with a splash at Clare House. The Copper River Seafood Marketing Association donated first-of-the-season Copper River salmon to Clare House. Chef Reuben Gerber of the Crow’s Nest at the Hotel Captain Cook prepared a delicious salmon lunch for the residents. It was delightful to spend time with commercial fisherman Derek Blake and Chef Reuben — both men volunteered their time, talent and treasure to make the day memorable.

Like all Alaskans, CSS seems to operate at a faster pace during the summer. We are making plans to say goodbye to Karen Ferguson. Karen initially volunteered with the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services program performing psychological assessments of refugees. She was hired in 2003 as the program manager for refugee services and in 2005 became the program director and state refugee coordinator. Karen is moving to Israel with her family and enrolling in a Master’s program in peace and conflict management at the University of Haifa.

She hopes to work with refugees on a national or international level. As hard as it is to wish Karen farewell, we know our refugee resettlement program will remain successful because, with help from Anchorage parishes, she has built such a solid program over the years.

August brought the opportunity to participate in several community events for CSS. The Clare to Clare fashion show took place Aug. 1 and HUGSS (Helping Us Give School Supplies) & Coats for Kids on Aug. 12.

We are also busy installing our cross agency database — a critically needed internal tool that will provide greater reporting accuracy across our programs.

CSS has also been very involved in the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. Mary Beth Bragiel, our deputy directory, is serving as the chair of the coalition’s board. This summer the coalition is hiring staff for the first time. Full-time staff will greatly help the mission to end homelessness.

But as busy as this summer has already been — and promises to be — it’s important to reflect on important moments that call us on a deeper level. The recent passing of Maya Angelou was one such event. Ms. Angelou was a woman of great courage. She was a survivor of child molestation, poverty and discrimination. Her passing gave CSS a chance to reflect on her amazing life. The life she led is truly an inspiration to staff and clients alike. Below is an excerpt from her poem, “Still I Rise” that I wanted to share with you.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise.

— Maya Angelou

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit cssalaska.org.

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