Rodney Schuster is the executive director of the Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo.
The Blade/Katie Rausch
One entry tells how Crisis Navigator Linda Kraft helps people search through resources that can help them in 19 counties in Northwest Ohio. “Car troubles, prescription assistance, utilities, furniture, glasses, it’s really all over the board,” she says.
Another tells how Catholic Charities helped Gary, a diabetic in Mansfield, get needed insulin, and how its H.O.P.E. food pantry provided him with healthy meals.
The charity will hold its first public celebratory event at 10 a.m. Tuesday, when a centennial Mass will be said at Rosary Cathedral, 2535 Collingwood Blvd. And on Sept. 18, ESPN analyst and former football coach Lou Holtz will be the keynote speaker at the gala anniversary celebration.
Catholic Charities served 20,000 people three years ago; last year, the number had grown to 50,000, says Executive Director Rodney Schuster.
“The most important thing is that we serve anyone who comes to us," he said recently. "We don't want it to be just a number; we want to say, 'Okay, we have an encounter. How can we better help them? How can we make a better connection? Is there a way we can connect them to other services in the community, realizing we can't be all things to all people?' ”
At first, the organization helped widows and orphans, Mr. Schuster said. “Adoption has been a part of it. We were in the medical field with hospitals and health care, and just kind of evolved over the years.”
Today, its services include Helping Hands of St. Louis, which provides clothing for the needy and feeds them at its soup kitchen and from its food pantry. Shelter is offered at La Posada in Toledo, where families stay while preparing to move to permanent housing, and at Miriam House in Norwalk for women and children.
As the population ages, one growing area is adult advocacy, “being guardians for the elderly,” Mr. Schuster said. “We don't make any money on this, but we're there because they need somebody to advocate for them to make sure they're getting their medical, to make sure they're getting food, to make sure they're getting clothing, to make sure that they're being taken care of.”
Volunteers with the jail and prison ministry try to help the incarcerated "look forward,” he said. Also, the adoption program continues, including services for open adoptions and adoptionof babies of birth mothers who chose not to have an abortion.
All of Catholic Charities' services “represent what the Catholic faith is about,” Mr. Schuster said. “Not only Catholic faith; we follow what Jesus taught us, and who did He help? He said we need to help those that are in need.”
Though they have different structures, Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul work for the common good of helping the needy, and each makes referrals to the other.
“St. Vincent de Paul is really a parish-based ministry here in the diocese, and they do fantastic work,” Mr. Schuster said. “They're more of a grassroots part of an older entity, but really volunteer driven in comparison to us, and their services aren't as much hands-on, case-management intensive as ours are.” Catholic Charities is a diocesan organization, in contrast. Funding breaks down to about 40 percent from donations, 25 percent from the diocese, one percent from United Way, and the rest from grants.
It aims to raise $1 million for its 100th anniversary and create awareness of its work and volunteer opportunities, Mr. Schuster said. With a total budget this fiscal year of $3.7 million, it has a staff of 50 including part-time and contingency workers; about 1,000 people a year volunteer. Of the $1 million goal, $50,000 is projected to come from participants in the Glass City Marathon on April 27, who will sign up donors for their runs.
“We strive to help change lives,” Mr. Schuster said. “We have no greater joy as a ministry than when somebody says, 'I came to Catholic Charities when I was at my lowest point and you helped me, you helped give me hope. You helped give me the tools. You helped me in my faith journey.' ”