National economic grant adds to CCHD presence in archdiocese

Original article: Catholic Voice

Last year, the archdiocese expanded its work with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) – landing a $25,000 national economic development grant for the first time.

The money will help provide access to loans, training and ongoing support for Ponca Tribe small-business owners in parts of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.

As it has in years past, the archdiocese also obtained a national community development grant through CCHD, the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty agency. The $50,000 grant went to the Institute for Public Life, an Omaha faith-based organization that supports the rights of refugees and immigrant families and helps them settle into the country.

Those grants are just two ways the archdiocese has worked through the CCHD to help people break the cycle of poverty, said Omar Gutièrrez, manager of the archdiocese’s Office of Missions and Justice. The archdiocese also supports annual fall CCHD collections after Masses – and this year’s collections will be held Nov. 23 and Nov. 24.

With the gap growing between rich and poor since the nation’s economic downturn, this year’s collection is particularly timely, Gutièrrez said.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet in this jobless recovery,” he said.

Last year’s collection garnered more than $87,000 in the archdiocese. About 65 percent of the money went to CCHD efforts around the country and 35 percent – or more than $30,000 – was distributed by the archdiocese for direct ministry to the poor, Gutièrrez said.

Those local grants – generally between $3,000 and $5,000 each – were awarded to Blessed Family Street Ministry, Essential Pregnancy Services, Together Inc., Catholic Charities and Operation Others’ holiday food efforts, all in the Omaha area, he said.

As for the national economic development grant to help the Ponca Tribe, Gutièrrez said he enthusiastically backed First Ponca Financial – the Grand Island, Neb.-based recipient of the grant – when Pete Upton, executive director, asked for the archdiocese’s support. Upton’s hands-on approach to helping low-income clients meets the grant’s goals of acquiring assets, establishing businesses and creating jobs with living wages, Gutièrrez said.

“That expresses the heart of what CCHD is all about,” he said.

First Ponca serves American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Ponca Tribe’s 15-county, federally recognized service area, including northeast Nebraska, two counties in northwest Iowa and one county in southeast South Dakota. Many of them live in poverty and benefit from one-on-one and group sessions detailing how to develop a business plan, apply for a loan, bring credit scores up, budget and exercise financial discipline, Upton said.

“These are normal things to most people, but when you are on hard times or living paycheck to paycheck, it’s not as easy,” he said. “They just need a helping hand.”

Upton said he’s grateful for the grant and the archdiocese’s support.

“They see a need in the Native American community,” he said. “Without them, we couldn’t do it.”


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