School Supply Drive brings confidence to the classroom for hundreds of students

Every year, as a new school year approaches, Catholic Charities partners with parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Denver to organize a School Supply Drive, providing essential educational materials to hundreds of students.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with school-aged children averaged more than $840 on school supplies in 2023. For many families served by Catholic Charities, the growing price of supplies due to inflation, is insurmountable. The cost could potentially impede their grocery or housing budget for the month, leaving children with few to no supplies to start the school year.

“For families at Samaritan House and other ministries throughout Catholic Charities, we want to be sure that school is not another cause for anxiety or stress. We are thankful to the many amazing donors that contribute to share this vision with us and make it a reality,” said Mark Hahn, Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement at Catholic Charities.

Since the School Supply Drive began, it has connected generous donors with thousands of students, to help enrich education and build up that extra confidence as students enter their classrooms for the first time. Brand new backpacks and supplies do that by giving children one less thing to worry about when they are learning and growing.

Families such as Aaron Areolla and his granddaughters, who are part of our Kinship program, have participated in the Catholic Charities School Supply Drive since the girls were in elementary school. Back then, their school supply lists included crayons and colored pencils.

Today, the girls are in high school, and their school supply lists are a lot different. But they still look forward to coming to Christ the King parish in Denver to pick out new backpacks, folders and notebooks for the upcoming school year. As for their grandfather, he says it has been a saving grace that they can depend on year after year.

Thanks to the generosity of incredible donors, families like the Areolla’s are able to start the school year on an equal footing. The assistance provided through the Catholic Charities School Supply Drive undoubtedly impacts the lives of these children, fostering confidence and enthusiasm as a new school year begins.

St Raphael’s Volunteer Steps in to Help Schools Post Pandemic

Mental health is a hot topic in school systems across the country. To meet students where they’re at, St. Raphael Counseling’s school counseling team has grown, partly in response to the complex social emotional and academics setbacks stemming from the COVID pandemic. This expansion of school counseling throughout the Archdiocese of Denver stretching from Eagle … Read more

Intentionality and Social Media

By Mark R. Sanders LPC, CACIII Catholic Charities of Denver’s St. Raphael Counseling I have a love and hate relationship with the internet. I must admit that my hobbies — watching English Premier League football and collecting Star Wars vintage memorabilia — couldn’t exist in the same way without it. However, there is also a … Read more

Marian Plaza residents celebrate the spirit of community

When Twan moved into her affordable unit at Marian Plaza in downtown Denver in March of 1991, she never imagined the joy and sense of community she would find there.  32 years later, she smiles with a flower in her hair as she is celebrated along with other residents, for a monumental anniversary of over 30 years of residence. This past month, Catholic Charities Housing staff put on an anniversary luncheon, to highlight Twan and other residents, who have been committed to keeping the spirit of community living after a pandemic.  

Twan received a commemoration plaque and a small gift, as an acknowledgement of the investment she has made in the community. She felt recognized and appreciated for all the time and effort she had put into making this complex her home. 

“(Marian Plaza) has been a huge blessing to me. I’ve learned so much from those who have gone before me, and from those friends who’ve lived with me for a decade,” shared Twan.  

Marian Plaza and other Catholic Charities Housing complexes are some of the few affordable housing options available to seniors in Colorado these days. Census surveys have shown for more than a fifth of all Colorado renters, no matter their age, are unsure if they can make their next rent payment. And for seniors with less income, it is much more difficult to find complexes that will accept their applications. But for Twan

 and thousands of other seniors that are residing out of Catholic Charities complexes, rent is affordable and manageable. This allows for independent living without worrying about making ends meet. 

These celebratory anniversaries included five years of residency all the way to 30 years, and are special to the complex, as they not only signify a sense of security, but they also signify decades-long friendships and connection.  

Another resident at the luncheon, John, shared that he had been in Denver for over 25 years and never thought he would have to worry about paying his basic bills. He is grateful to have recently moved into a nice unit with a fixed rent and shared moments like this with new friends he has made.  

“It makes me feel safe knowing that there are people like me, that have lived a lot of their years here and will continue to,” shared John. “It’s a great comfort to me.”  

 The camaraderie and support of all the residents, some of whom may have otherwise experienced loneliness, is a heartwarming part of the human experience. As the luncheon went on, residents who attended, including Twan, made sure that those who were not able to come down for health or other reasons, had a plate of food delivered to them. 

32 years ago, she reflects on the time she was in need of housing assistance. Sister Marie, former program coordinator at Marian Plaza, was somewhat of an angel to Twan, while Twan was battling lymphoma. Without a secure place to stay after remission, Sister Marie came to Twan after weeks of praying over her in the hospital and asked her to come tour Marian Plaza.   

Twan is healthy and in her 70s now. She knows that as she continues to age, she may need more assistance, but for now, she’s happy to help some of her acquaintances if they need her. And she takes comfort in knowing that the community she’s become a part of will be there for her should she ever need support. 

Triumphant new beginnings for the pro-life movement in Northern Colorado

Just a quarter mile from the Planned Parenthood of Fort Collins, in a building owned by St. John XXIII Catholic Church, Marisol Health promises to bring life-saving support services to Northern Colorado.

The vision to bring the comprehensive and life-affirming clinic to Northern Colorado began prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, before Colorado became a hub for women in crisis pregnancies seeking abortions. It started almost two years ago, with a small group who devoted themselves to deep prayer and dedicated action for the women and unborn of the state’s region.

For the past seven years, Marisol Health of Catholic Charities Denver has provided a full range of women’s healthcare, including medical, counseling and family support services, to meet the growing need for loving, compassionate support for women and families in the state of Colorado.

“At Marisol Health and through all of Catholic Charities, our goal is to affirm life,” Sara Lugo, Program Director at Marisol Health, shared with the Denver Catholic earlier this year. “It’s a gift and a privilege to work in this space where we get to affirm life from conception to natural death,” Lugo continued, speaking of all the numerous physical and mental health services as well as other resources for expectant mothers and their families, as many pregnancy resource centers do. “We’ve really been able to meet that need by meeting women and their families in such a vulnerable time and really walking with them so that they can really thrive as parents, really providing that support is really crucial to the building the family.”

With their new location in Fort Collins, Marisol Health and Catholic Charities will continue these life-saving efforts for all persons across all of northern Colorado.

“Marisol Health provides life affirming medical care and social services, and we really want to be able to provide that network of support so these families can say ‘yes’ affirmatively,” Lugo concluded.

“We needed to figure out how to bring support to Northern Colorado in a loving way. On behalf of all of the advisory team members, we stand proud of where we are today. This mission has been on all of our hearts,” said Patrick Brady, a Fort Collins native who serves on the advisory committee for the project.

The original group has since grown, and their prayers and outreach have brought the vision to life. The clinic recently surpassed its campaign goal to start construction and is slated to open in the spring of 2024.

Fr. Joseph Lajoie, Pastor of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins, celebrates Mass for those gathered to celebrate the official beginning of renovations of the new Marisol Health clinic in Northern Colorado. (Photo by André Escaleira, Jr.)

To commemorate the start of the renovations, an event was held on the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Fort Collins on Wednesday night. Mass was celebrated with a special intention to our Blessed Mother, that she might hold the unborn and all future clients of Marisol Health in her hands. Joining in her intercession were scores of Catholic faithful, including Catholic Charities Denver staff, supporters and friends, as well as the Knights of Columbus, thankful to see Catholic, life-affirming care coming to Northern Colorado.



Indeed, the day was a perfect one for the formal beginning of the process of opening the clinic, said Fr. Joseph Lajoie, the Pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, which also houses Ram Catholic, the area’s official college Catholic campus ministry to Colorado State University. “The feast of the visitation is especially the feast of hospitality in that Mary began focusing on someone else’s needs before her own honor, anticipating one another in showing honor,” he shared during his homily. It is that very hospitality that the courageous mothers who visit Marisol Health, as well as the clinic’s dedicated, compassionate staff embody in their loving reception of each soul that enters their care.

“It is so appropriate, more appropriate than I can think of, than on any other liturgical day of the year, to have us going in and passing on the keys to this event center to the very solid health that will in many ways contribute to the health of women and even the saving of the unborn,” Fr. Lajoie continued.

Fr. Joseph Lajoie, Pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, gathers with Darren Walsh, CEO and President of Catholic Charities Denver, Knights of Columbus, and members of the project’s advisory committee and the Catholic Charities Denver team. With the keys transferred, renovations begin on the clinic, set to open in spring 2024. (Photo by André Escaleira, Jr.)

A procession to the new space was led by Fr. Lajoie and the Knights of Columbus, followed by a brief ceremony in which he handed the keys of the former event center of the parish to Darren Walsh, President and CEO of Catholic Charities Denver, with dozens in attendance to join in prayer and celebration.

In stark contrast to Planned Parenthood’s focus on abortion and contraception, Marisol Health will continue to offer holistic options to thousands of women of all stages, leading to life-saving outcomes. Women deserve to get accurate information and support as they make important decisions about their reproductive health and pregnancies. Marisol Health will continue to bring the most compassionate, comprehensive support system to Northern Colorado.