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How Catholic Charities of Boston changed one woman's life

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'I'm always going to be there for Catholic Charities because they were there for me. The people at Catholic Charities, they've really provided me with hope.'

Catholic Charities of Boston (CCAB)'s mission is to welcome and serve, with compassion and respect, all those in need by providing life's necessities, education, and advocacy to move families toward self-sufficiency. Clients turn to CCAB to help them and their families through difficult, and often unexpected, times. Donnette McManus is a dedicated volunteer at CCAB's South division in Brockton who became a grateful client when tragedy struck her family.

Donnette is college-educated and comes from a working-class family. Growing up, her parents worked hard to provide her with a good life and encouraged her to follow in their footsteps so that she, too, could have her piece of "the American dream." After years of working hard to support herself and her son, she never expected to find herself in need of assistance.

She shared, "At any given moment, things can shift. And I've had a bunch of different shifts, and some of the shifts have kind of knocked me off my feet. Every time I felt like I rebuilt, I felt like another wave would come. In July of 2019, my only sister passed away after giving birth to her last daughter, Kennedy."

Overnight, Donnette unexpectedly found herself going from being a single mother with one child to a mother of four children, all under age 13. The paycheck from her full-time job allowed her to provide for herself and her son, but she found herself stretched thin trying to support her new family of five.

"You have no idea what it feels like not to know whether you're going to be homeless, whether you're not going to have what the kids need. In my prior life, I took a lot of things for granted," Donnette said. "I had a good-paying job, so I did not qualify for a lot of services, and every door felt like it would be closed. No welfare, no access to programs because I was in the middle somewhere."

She turned to CCAB's food pantry for help.

Beth Chambers, long-time director of Catholic Charities' Greater Boston and South divisions, explained, "People don't understand who the food pantry client is. Everyone thinks that they're poor, and that they're uneducated, and that they live in, whether it be public housing or a low-income housing unit. But the fact is that who we see is a mix of every economic situation, within middle-class, within lower-class. And for us to see someone who is college-educated, to see someone who is working, is not a surprise to us because of the time that we're in."

"I feel like, at least for my family, everything surrounds food. It's where we all connect," Donnette said. "I worry about what we are going to eat for dinner. I always have to have a fresh vegetable because they (the children) like fresh vegetables. And I worry about, will there be enough milk to last me until I can get some more milk? Going to Catholic Charities and having shelf-stable milk is a Godsend, and Catholic Charities always has bread."

In Donnette's spare time, she volunteers at the food pantry at CCAB's South division in Brockton, stocking shelves and serving bags of groceries to community members in need. Because of her experience volunteering, she knew that CCAB offers programs for those who, like her, need extra help to make ends meet or put a meal on the table.

Beth continued, "Donnette is one of our food pantry volunteers, but at the same time, Donnette is also someone who needs the food; there's no question she's in need. . . . But for us to see someone who wants to give back is what just blows our minds."

Donnette shared, "I'm always going to be there for Catholic Charities because they were there for me. The people at Catholic Charities, they've really provided me with hope. For a long time, I felt hopeless."

"I know sometimes it's hard to understand or be far removed and to think that you're doing a good thing. But I want you to know that you're doing a good thing. I want you to know that there are people out there who are relying on you to help make things happen for their families. And I'm one of them," she continued, "I just want to say, thank you."

To learn more about how you can help make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need, like Donnette, please visit www.ccab.org.

JACQUELINE CUNNIFF IS MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON.



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