“I used to have to choose between diapers or milk” before Marisol Family

Jennifer Gonzales has been coming to Marisol Family for almost a year and says the program has been a real lifesaver.

Before she found Marisol Family, the mother of three says she couldn’t always afford to buy diapers for her little ones.
“Sometimes we had to choose between diapers and milk.”

Marisol Family has reduced the financial strain on her family and is making a huge impact on their lives. Beyond the importance of the material items she receives, she says the kindness and support from Marisol Family staff and volunteers makes a world of difference.

“They treat us really well. They’re kind and helpful and super nice to my children and me.”

Jennifer wants everyone to know how grateful she is for the support she receives at Marisol Family. She says it goes beyond diapers and wipes.

“Thank you so much for all the help.”

Eugene signs his first lease in 30 years

When Army veteran Eugene moved back to Denver from Memphis in December 2023, he told himself that he would be without a home for three weeks, tops. While his time in the Veterans Program at Samaritan House, the Catholic Charities iconic shelter in downtown Denver, extended beyond his three-week goal, he used the time there … Read more

“Marisol Homes saved our lives”

Tori clutched her son Brock’s small hand as they stepped into Marisol Homes for the first time in early 2020. The weight of homelessness and the shadows of domestic violence seemed to lift when she got the call one winter day from a case manager at Marisol Homes, telling her they could move in right away.

“Marisol Homes opened the doors for me and provided me with the warmth we needed, when it was cold and scary for us to be outside. At the time, Brock and I were sleeping under highways, usually seeking a new one every night.”

In the months that followed, Tori and Brock navigated the COVID pandemic inside the Catholic Charites shelter for pregnant women and mothers with young children with 15 other families. Despite the chaos of the pandemic, Marisol Homes classes for mothers continued and Tori learned and grew. Her connection with her then 2-year-old son grew stronger as she clung to the safety of the transformative place and maintained sobriety with the help of supportive programs. During these months that were especially uncertain, she found herself immersed in the community and actively used the building blocks provided by the Marisol Health team to focus on what would be next for them.

“Marisol Homes put it in place so that I could raise my child. If it wasn’t for that safe space for my son, I would not be able to provide a good life for him. From where we were at before, it really saved both of our lives.”

The classes at Marisol Homes helped Tori’s confidence grow. She discovered a passion for working with animals and, with encouragement from the Marisol Homes staff and other moms, she enrolled in a dog grooming course.

Today, four years after moving out of Marisol Homes, Tori is fully booked, with clients waiting months to get on her calendar. For her, every day is another chance for her to perfect her craft.

“Being with the dogs is really healing for me. We have our own language, and it’s taught me how to be a bit more patient.”

Tori saved enough money to get an apartment in Aurora that is both close to her work and Brock’s daycare. They even have two dogs of their own who get extra attention when mom is grooming them.

Tori loves to look at pictures from their days at Marisol Homes. She laughs as she scrolls through memories of the days of them eating in the Marisol Homes kitchen and playing outside on the playground. She’s forever grateful for the lifeline Marisol Homes provided when they needed it most.

Marisol Homes continues to support Tori and Brock with ongoing parenting classes that she joins virtually that support the ongoing growth of the parents who have called Marisol Homes home.

“I am trying to break that generational curse of yelling and being impatient with my child. I want to give my son everything he deserves, and Marisol Homes has gone above and beyond to made sure I have the tools so that mine and his generations are in better hands.”

Denver Family Are Three Peas in New Modular Pods at Samaritan House 48th

Denver Family Are Three Peas in a Pod in New Modular Domes at Samaritan House 48th

Kathy and her twin daughters, Debbie and Kathleen, are three peas in a pod. They’re inseparable and committed to spending a lot of time together, despite the challenges of experiencing homelessness in Denver for several years. Denver natives, their goal has always been to support and lean on each other, despite the struggles they’ve faced together.

Today, the three of them are enjoying their new domes. Over the past year, Catholic Charities and the City of Denver have worked together to enhance the facilities at Samaritan House 48th by adding semi-private units, we call domes to the building. The private modular sleeping areas give residents their own space and some privacy. Kathy and her daughters have taken up residence in three adjacent domes in the “Lily” neighborhood.

In total, 187 domes have been added to the congregate shelter that is home to more than 300 women. Building out of domes continues through the shelter, which is on track to have closer to 4000 total domes by the end of 2024. Kathy and her girls have faced their share of tragedy. She gave birth to six wonderful children but has grieved the deaths of three sons. As anyone who has lost a family member knows, that shared experience can make remaining family members grow very close. That’s the situation with Kathy, Debbie and Kathleen, who have worked hard to stay together every step of the way.

As they settled into their new living space, complete with cherished Broncos and Nuggets blankets, the family has a deep sense of relief and gratitude. They now have a more private place to call their own as they continue their search for stable, permanent housing. The domes can be a place where they can continue to support each other through thick and thin. The chance to be together and have a roof over their heads at Samaritan House is a blessing they’ve never taken for granted.

“We are so glad to stay together. My girls take care of me, and make sure I am looked after,” Kathy shared, with tears in her eyes. “I am grateful that we stick together.”

For Kathy and her daughters, this new chapter at the Lily neighborhood represents a fresh start. They know there will still be challenges ahead, but together, they are ready to face whatever comes their way. These three in their new domes are grateful for the chance to be together and for the hope that this new beginning is the start of a happy new chapter in their lives.

USDA Farm Labor Housing Project, partnered with Catholic Charities offers affordable housing for essential farmworkers in Weld County

Two miles from downtown Greeley, hardworking neighbors’ plant, manufacture and grow food for residents across Colorado and surrounding states. Rising housing costs in Northern Colorado have greatly impacted residents in Greeley since the pandemic. The US Census recently named Weld County the fourth most unaffordable housing market in the nation. This trend has been affecting seasonal workers, whose wages fall short of qualifying for traditional housing, for quite some time. With this understanding, Catholic Charities Housing partnered with the USDA 25 years ago, doing what its best known for: supporting neighbors and transforming lives.

These housing projects are just two of the 34 Catholic Charities Housing sites across Colorado and Wyoming, providing secure, supportive and affordable housing complexes for several thousand individuals and families who cannot access appropriate housing at affordable prices.

The USDA Farm Labor Housing Project is a federally funded housing initiative designed to provide homes for agricultural workers. In Weld County, the project has been providing homes for agricultural workers since the first building, Milagro, was constructed in 1999. The second building, Plaza del Sol, comprised of little cottages, was built in 2004 and houses dozens of workers and their families.

Catholic Charities Housing provides safe, affordable units for both year-round and temporary farm workers, including those who travel from other states to work in agricultural sectors such as meatpacking plants, dairy farms, greenhouses, egg farms and in the fields.

“The workers we house are vital to the agricultural industry, and we understand the challenges they face, including fluctuating wages and the uncertainties of weather and external factors,” shared Maria Pena, site manager for Milagro and Plaza del Sol sites.

There is a school for the children who live in the Catholic Charities Housing buildings, making education accessible to the children whose caregivers work in agriculture during the days. The school is specifically for families living at Milagro and Plaza del Sol, adding another element of togetherness. Dozens of children attend the school seasonally.

“We are proud to offer this support and see first-hand the positive impact it has on their lives,” said Pena.

In this year alone, seven families have worked to build their credit scores and saved enough money to buy houses of their very own. Along with financial counseling that Catholic Charities Housing provides, they also work closely with programs like Habitat for Humanity, who help residents build homes in the area. For many families, this is their chance to be first-generation homeowners, giving a more stable path for generations to come.

“The transition from low-income housing to homeownership brings us immense joy and pride, as we believe in creating not just a place to live, but a true sense of home and community,” said Pena. “I had a really emotional moment with a resident recently, who after receiving guidance from Habitat for Humanity about building a house, came by my office with joyful tears. She had achieved her goal of owning a house and even picked out paint colors for a house for her and her children.

It is moments like these that reinforce our commitment to providing more than just housing; we are invested in creating opportunities for individuals and families to build brighter futures.

Finding Support and Empowerment: Tara’s Journey as a Single Mother with Marisol Health

From Tara’s first visit for prenatal care at Catholic Charities’ Marisol Health to the birth of her son David and beyond, Tara found the support and guidance she needed as a first-time mother.

“I was eight weeks pregnant when I found Marisol Health. I didn’t have insurance, so I needed to use Medicaid. And, like a sign I was seeking, they just popped up. I gave them a call and knew this was where I was going to go. And then, lo and behold, I just felt comfortable,” said Tara.

Marisol Health provided Tara with both medical care and emotional support during her pregnancy. The staff made her feel welcomed and supported, helping her through the challenges of this uncharted territory. Tara’s first ultrasound at Marisol Health was a crystallizing moment, strengthening her bond with her unborn child and affirming her decision to seek help.

“I got to see David on the ultrasound at my first appointment. I looked at him and I was so excited to see his little, tiny little arms and feet. I’m so excited that I’m seeing this little person I get to take care of.”

Throughout David’s first 15 months, Tara has learned to navigate the complexities and joys of motherhood as a single mom. Marisol Health’s postpartum support and counseling services became lifelines for her during times where she shared that she felt lonely and struggled with a deep depression. Marisol Health provided her with those resources to help cope and a community of other mothers who were struggling with the same.

Marisol Health provides a continuum of services for the mother and baby long a child is born. The parenting groups and counseling sessions facilitated by clinical staff members gave her the support and guidance she needed to overcome postpartum challenges and form lasting connections with other moms.

As a single mother, Tara found strength in the community of Marisol Health and other mothers, discovering a sense of purpose and fulfillment in nurturing her son.

“I realized that I was put on this earth to be a mom, that is who I was born to become. I was transformed when I birthed a human. It really made me realize what your body is capable of. But the best part of all of this is that I get to raise this perfect little human.”

15 years later, Charities staff member champions life after death

Adrienne Adams has devoted the last 18 years of her professional life to Catholic Charities, partnering with families so they can thrive in our Catholic Charities Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs. “I love helping our families support their children. Our team partners with families and helps set them up for success. It’s such a gratifying opportunity to work with so many amazing, dedicated people.”

She loved her job at Catholic Charities from the start, but three years into her career, her perspective on life, and her “why,” grew stronger.

15 years ago, Adrienne was just 29 years old and in her first few months as a young mother. Her child, Ara, was born in February and was the light of Adrienne and her husband, Ryan’s, life. Adrienne had recently returned to work from maternity leave and began teaming with colleagues to plan annual Pre-Service training events. Her little one, Ara, loved listening to people read books and sing songs. Nothing indicated that anything was about to change. Then, while asleep on June 29, 2009, Adrienne went into cardiac arrest. Without any previous history of heart problems, it was a miracle that her husband woke up and immediately realized what was happening. Ryan quickly performed CPR on her until paramedics from the fire department arrived and used an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). She spent the next few weeks fighting for her life in the ICU.

“I don’t remember very much from that time. I just remember feeling like I was in fog.”

After Adrienne awoke from a medically induced coma designed to support brain function, Ryan and staff from the hospital told her about all the people who visited her daily. The ICU team told her it was the most they’d ever witnessed. She had friends and family travel across the country to sit by her side and, from the first call, her colleagues at Catholic Charities stepped up to help the new family with meals, cards from both staff and children in our ECE programs, and prayers.

During meetings at Catholic Charities, we often set aside time to share “God Moments” as a group, because there are many that occur in our agency every day. Adrienne is one of those people who always has one to share. During a meeting in April, she shared “15 years ago, you were all a light”.

“There were so many God moments that happened. Being alive to witness my child grow up, being able to have my second child and to just be here, is a God moment. But what is so special about working at Catholic Charities is that everyone surrounded me, and I just remember feeling like all of these people were a light. They helped me with rides when I went back to work, and recognized how traumatic this was for me and my family. I was offered counseling which helped my husband and me so much.”

As the ECE Director of Home Based Programs, Adrienne has moved up in her career since her life was saved 15 years ago and she makes it her mission to help others in the community by leading with grace and gratitude. She led the charge to get AEDs in every ECE center and encourages everyone she knows to take CPR classes, knowing their importance in saving lives.

Adrienne is one of the only 10% of people who survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States. A staggering statistic that, she says, brings tears to her eyes every time she says it.

Adrienne regularly returns to the hospital and fire department to thank the people who saved her life. She and her family share goody bags they’ve created to thank the first responders who held her life in their hands. And as she looks at her two children, she recognizes how life is a profound gift and feels nothing but gratitude to her husband, the medical staff, and the entire Catholic Charities team who supported her during such an unexpected and life-changing event.

Catholic Charities Textile Baling Program: Transforming Scraps into Support

Seven days a week, the Catholic Charities’ Samaritan House warehouse buzzes with activity. Generous folks donate clothing, shoes and small household items; veterans, families and single women who call Samaritan House home access needed clothes and shoes; and people who are moving out of any Catholic Charities property into more permanent housing “shop” for small household goods they’ll need for their forever home.

Like all donation centers, some goods that are donated don’t quite work to share with participants. Sometimes the shoes are a little too worn, the sweater too tattered, the towel too used. But, at Catholic Charities, those items don’t get thrown away. They’re used in the organization’s new Textile Baling Program, a transformative initiative that redefines the approach to donations, recycling and community support.

The Essence of Textile Baling

At its core, the baling process is the art of compressing textiles into high-density piles, preparing them for efficient shipping and recycling. The list of items that can be baled is extensive and includes:
Belts and purses
Toys (both hard and soft)
Bedding and blankets

The Samaritan House warehouse ensures that every piece of material that’s donated is utilized. This philosophy of “never letting anything go to waste” underpins the entire program.

The Journey of Donations
Each week, generous folks donate hundreds of pounds of items to the Samaritan House warehouse on Lawrence Street in downtown Denver. Folks in Northern Colorado also generously donate at the Guadalupe Community Center warehouse in north Greeley. These donations, ranging from old sheets and blankets to shoes and toys, are brought to the warehouse for sorting and baling. Items that can be reused within local shelters are set aside, while the rest are prepped for baling and recycling.

Extending the Reach
The baled items find new life in several ways. Some are sent to stores in parts of the country that don’t have the generosity we find in Colorado, providing affordable options for those in need in places like rural West Virginia and Kentucky. Others are shipped to third-world countries, offering essential clothing and supplies to communities around the globe. This international reach has transformed the way Catholic Charities views its operations, prompting a shift towards negotiating and collaborating with various business partners to maximize impact and profitability.

Impact on Shelters and Beyond
The revenue generated from recycling these bales is funneled back into Samaritan House locations across the Front Range. This financial boost helps cover the cost of essential items, such as underwear, which shelters typically need to purchase. By reducing expenditure on these necessities, more funds can be allocated towards other critical areas of support.

Future Aspirations
Looking ahead, the program aims to enhance the efficiency of the baling process, making it quicker and more effective. This includes engaging more sources for clothing donations and exploring other types of bales, such as those for toys.
The competitive market for clothing bales also encourages the investigation of new business partners, with the goal of driving up profits. Each of these steps is a stride towards sustaining and expanding the invaluable services provided by Catholic Charities.

A Community United
The Catholic Charities Textile Baling Program is more than just a recycling initiative; it is a testament to the power of community and the importance of resourcefulness. Through the dedication of the Samaritan House warehouse staff and the generosity of donors across Colorado, Catholic Charities ensures that nothing is wasted and everything is given a second chance to make a difference.

Life as a Divine Gift – Celebrating Fathers

On Father’s Day and all year long, we recognize the important role fathers take in supporting life as a divine gift both in the lives of their children and across the community. Dr. Kevin Tool, obstetrician and gynecologist and longtime Fort Collins resident, serves as Marisol Health Northern Colorado’s Medical Director, but his proudest role is father to he and his wife Audrey’s two children Ryan and Karalyn.
During the opening event at Marisol Health Northern Colorado in June 2024, Dr. Tool shared that he’s been shunned for being “too pro-life” by others in his profession. Many doctors don’t feel the call to life that Dr Tool advocates for regularly. It was a moment of divine inspiration that set him on the path to creating something truly transformative in his community. During the opening event, Dr. Tool explained that, during Mass at St. John XXIII one day, Father Rocco Porter shared his dream to have a clinic in Fort Collins to provide wrap-around services to protect life. That sparked a conversation that resulted in the opening of the new life-affirming clinic, just steps away from the CSU campus and the Fort Collins Planned Parenthood.

Father Rocco and Dr. Tool started by reaching out to the team at Catholic Charities, using the Marisol Health Denver clinic as a model. Soon, they hit the ground running, and hundreds of believers across the Northern Colorado community stepped up to the challenge over the past four years.

The clinic began seeing referral clients in April 2024 and is now open to the public. All women, no matter their age or health status, are encouraged to call 970-818-5745 to access care.

As the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Tool will assist the staff nurse midwife, work directly with patients who have higher risk medical conditions, review and sign off on all ultrasounds and share delivery responsibilities with Marisol Health nurse midwives.

Check out the video that was shared at the 2024 Catholic Charities SonRise event. It features Dr. Tool’s God moment where he said yes to life.
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