Catholic Community Service has the great honor to perform corporal works of mercy on behalf of the Catholic church in Southeast Alaska (formerly the Diocese of Juneau). We are excited to introduce ourselves as members of the new Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. We want to share some history and tell you how we have been blessed to help people during this difficult time.
Since our founding in 1973, we have grown from humble beginnings – Jesuit volunteers providing much-needed daycare – into a regional nonprofit with a mission of “serving the most vulnerable individuals and families in Southeast Alaska with dignity, care and compassion.”
Each Catholic charity is different, but we share the same Catholic values and vision – to meet the unique needs of the communities we serve by reaching out to those in need and providing care and help that isn’t otherwise available locally. Last year our 150 staff and 200+ volunteers helped more than 4,300 individuals through our many programs in three divisions:
SAFE Child Advocacy Center (SAFE CAC) – provides evaluations, case management, and support to children who have experienced abuse or neglect. We serve families from across Southeast through robust partnerships with law enforcement and the Office of Children’s Services, as well as legal, tribal, women’s shelter, and other partners who protect and work towards justice for victims of violence.
Hospice and Home Care of Juneau – provides the only Medicare certified Hospice end-of-life care and the only Home Health nursing and therapies in Juneau. Our staff includes nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, chaplains, and more. Their work is supported by our highly trained Hospice volunteers.
Southeast Senior Services – is our largest division with over a dozen programs serving seniors, their caregivers, and disabled individuals. Our network of 11 Senior Centers, from Ketchikan to Yakutat, provides hot, nutritious meals, transportation, counseling, support and referrals, and so much more. All seniors age 60 and over receive services free of charge.
During this difficult time, we seized the opportunity to find creative ways to reach out and help those in need. Like our sister charity in Anchorage, we’ve kept doing good work – with some changes in place for safety (of course). And we were blessed to reach out to new people in need, engage our communities more deeply in partnership, and start new programs in response to new needs.
Increased numbers of meal deliveries for seniors – Known in some of our 11 service areas as Meals On Wheels, this nutritious meal delivery program has seen a 130% increase in meal delivery since we suspended our Senior Center congregate meals in March.
Southeast for SAFE Kids – After the closure of public schools, we experienced a dramatic drop in case referrals to our SAFE Child Advocacy Center. We were deeply concerned about children experiencing abuse isolated from those most likely to notice and report abuse. In partnership with the Glacier Valley Rotary Club, we began a new regional outreach campaign. “Southeast for SAFE Kids” is an effort to educate the general public on identifying and reporting suspected child abuse. Since the campaign launched, we have seen more children referred to the SAFE CAC for help than ever before.
Friends of Seniors – This innovative program was in the planning stages when the pandemic began, but with social distancing and seniors isolating at home, we jump-started our efforts as we saw the need was greater than ever before. Volunteers are now being recruited to connect with local seniors and help with everything from companionship and pet care to grocery shopping, subsistence hunting, help with Zoom, shoveling snow, and more. We are starting to match volunteers to seniors – if you are in Juneau, call us to learn more!
It’s a blessing not just to those we help, but also to those working in this ministry, that our agency mission of charity allows us to focus entirely on the good we can do and the love we can share. Thanks to all of you in the parishes across Southeast who help support our mission. We welcome the chance to share our stories with our new friends in parishes in Anchorage and beyond.
The writer is executive director of Catholic Community Service in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 463-6100 or visit ccsak.org.