Catholic Charities’ Partnership with First United Methodist Church Shreveport Continues to Flourish Since 2013
by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana
When Dr. Pat Day first envisioned a plan eight years ago for his church to spend one million dollars a year supporting missions both locally and globally, his goal was to financially assist missionaries on all continents as well as programs in the local community. He saw his church as a source for enabling global and local missions to continue doing work that was benefitting and transforming lives.
According to Michelle Osborn, Director of Local Missions at First United Methodist Church Shreveport (FUMC), local assistance in the early years found FUMC helping those in need with their rent and utilities by offering monetary assistance. Soon enough, however, they would see repeat clients requesting help again and again. FUMC wanted to make a lasting difference in people’s lives and knew that in order to achieve that, assistance that is transformational, and not transactional, was necessary.
As a part of a community with a very high poverty rate, it was evident that First United Methodist Church Shreveport was meeting a need in the community. FUMC wanted to continue to provide rent and utility assistance, but in a smarter way. As a result, FUMC decided to look for programs to partnership with that were already established in the community. They were seeking organizations that were not only fiscally responsible, but were also focused on empowering and educating those in need to alleviate the chronic poverty cycle. FUMC decided a better path would be to come alongside front line caregivers in the community and fiscally support these local non-profits so that they could then connect the people who come to the church seeking help with those organizations directly.
That is when FUMC found Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA). The values and goals CCNLA has for its Emergency Assistance Program lined up with what FUMC was looking for. FUMC and CCNLA seek to connect with people and build relationships rather than judge a situation or circumstance. FUMC and CCNLA seek to be the catalyst for lifting people up and towards independency and never wants to be the cause of keeping people in chronic poverty.
Through Money School, a mandatory class that is a part of the Emergency Assistance Program at CCNLA, those seeking financial help with their rent and utilities learn basic money management tools, such as creating a budget, and come to understand how a small, seemingly affordable item purchased regularly can add up to a large amount of “wasted” money over a longer period of time. Students of Money School learn the truth about “money myths” and their ability and rights towards financial independence. Clients are also given the opportunity to continue financial coaching beyond Money School if they choose.
A person is only allowed to attend Money School once every 24 months and Money School is a requirement before any rent or utility assistance is provided. If a person has attended Money School previously and is returning as a potential client, they must provide proof of budgeting and tracking expenses for at least a full month. Clients must meet certain other criteria in order for financial assistance to be granted. Since funding for the program is limited, there is always more need than there is funding to meet those needs. As a result, the CCNLA staff does a tremendous job determining and prioritizing which individual cases have the greatest need for assistance.
For these reasons, First United Methodist Shreveport supports and endorses the work Catholic Charities does with their Emergency Assistance Program. Since 2013, CCNLA and FUMC have established a partnership in which FUMC financially supports the Emergency Assistance Program on a monthly basis. In fact, although FUMC does manage a grant system open to organizations in the community, CCNLA holds the distinction of being one of only just a handful of local organizations that FUMC has decided to include as a line item on their annual budget.
“We love the way they do the program, constantly assessing it and finding ways to make it bigger and better,” said Osborn. “We feel that the Catholic Charities organization is a very good steward of [our] funds.”
Osborn and her department refer the many people who contact FUMC every month for rent and utility assistance directly to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana. She estimates that no less than five people a day contact her office asking for help, a figure that she feels is extremely conservative.
“We really believe in what that program does,” Osborn said. “We really do. And we need it.”
A direct result of this partnership is that FUMC increased its annual funding to CCNLA for 2019. Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is honored to be part of First United Methodist Shreveport’s local community mission outreach and looks forward to what more can be done together in the coming years!