Grant to help Catholic Charities expand outreach

DORCHESTER -- As volunteers gathered to help bundle Thanksgiving meals for those in need, Catholic Charities of Boston announced Nov. 19 it has received a significant grant that will enable the agency to expand its outreach.

The $700,000 strategic initiative grant from the Yawkey Foundation will help Catholic Charities to expand its multi-service centers in gateway cities, initially focused on the cities of Brockton and Lynn. It will enable the Catholic social services agency to serve hundreds of new clients each year in geographic areas with great need for the organization's core services, including Basic Needs, Youth and Family Services, Adult Education and Workforce Development, and Refugee and Immigrant Services.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley joined Yawkey Foundation CEO Maureen H. Bleday and Catholic Charities of Boston CEO Kevin MacKenzie at Catholic Charities' Yawkey Center in Dorchester as they announced the foundation's grant.

After the announcement, volunteers from nearby communities, including Boston College and Mount Alvernia Academy, pre-packed bags of food to be distributed to families for Thanksgiving meals.

"Thanksgiving is always a huge time at Catholic Charities because there's so much need. Especially in this semi-post-COVID world, you just see how much need is out there in the communities," Jacqueline Batson, communications manager at Catholic Charities of Boston, told The Pilot.

The Thanksgiving bags included onions, potatoes, canned goods, cornbread mix, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, rice, and an aluminum turkey pan, as well as either turkeys or gift cards for turkeys.

Batson said they anticipated assisting about 5,500 families across six locations over the next few days.

As one of the largest social service non-profit organizations in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities' four core service areas provide a comprehensive approach to serving clients' varied needs. The grant from the Yawkey Foundation will enable Catholic Charities to start making essential infrastructure upgrades to expand program and service offerings at hub locations throughout Eastern Massachusetts.

"The pandemic really exposed a lot of areas of improvement in helping Catholic Charities understand what our clients need," Batson said, adding that the centralized hubs will offer something like "one-stop shopping," where clients will be able to receive their four services in one location.

"This huge grant from the Yawkey Foundation is going to get the ball rolling with all the infrastructure upgrades to get the buildings that we need to get these services in gateway cities," she explained.

"For decades, Catholic Charities of Boston has provided critical social services to those most in need, and we continually expand and enhance programs to meet growing demand," said MacKenzie. "As a result, our infrastructure needs continue to grow and change. We are immensely grateful for our long-standing partnership with the Yawkey Foundation and its continued support as we begin the multi-year transformational process of shaping the agency for the future, beginning with establishing new multi-service hubs in gateway communities."

The Yawkey Foundation's Strategic Investment Grants support nonprofit organizations catalyzing plans around strategic growth, which may entail a reimagining, rescoping, or re-energizing of mission delivery for long-term optimized impact.

"Catholic Charities plays an extremely meaningful role in providing the most vulnerable individuals and families throughout Eastern Massachusetts with access to basic needs, such as food, housing, childcare, and workforce development," said Bleday.

"As a partner over many decades, Yawkey Foundation is very familiar with how Catholic Charities delivers these critical programs and services -- with dignity, responsiveness, and compassion -- and the prospects for expanding these capabilities to the Gateway Cities of Brockton and Lynn really resonated with our Trustees as an outstanding and very timely investment," she added.