By Martha Reed and Rose Mary Saraiva, Catholic Social Services

FALL RIVER — Catholic Social Services of Fall River has assisted countless families and individuals throughout the years. This help is provided in many ways and is made possible by generous donors, volunteers, and a dedicated staff that goes above and beyond to ensure that those in need get the help they need.

Some of the items collected at a recent Give Back Friday, by Catholic Social Services.

The services provided, the needs met, and the hours dedicated to such service often go unseen. However, there is so much that continually happens at CSS, especially behind the scenes. Just this past fall, more than 500 children received new clothing, coats and toys during our “Give Back” — Friday events, which were held in each of the five deaneries. From this event alone, we have had countless families and organizations reach out to CSS for additional support, as well as submitting referrals for people in need. As Christmas rapidly approaches, CSS gears up for the “Gift of Giving” program. This year alone, CSS has more than 900 families who have knocked on our doors seeking help. As we did last year, and in keeping with safety and health guidelines, CSS will provide Gift Cards to those families, with each member of the family receiving a card. In addition to the gift cards, new toys and winter gear are also provided. 

The “Gift of Giving” is made available to several of our agency programs, which include: our legal and immigration department; H.O.U.S.E. Family Shelter program; Emergency Solutions and Basic Needs; as well as referrals for services from community agencies, parishes, and concerned individuals. The goal at CSS is to ease the burden placed on so many families, especially during the holiday season. For example, a New Bedford school reached out through one of our volunteers asking if CSS could provide brand new toys for some of the students who would go without this Christmas. Our volunteers gathered up the requested items and delivered them to the teachers, guaranteeing smiles for Christmas for those children.

The spirit of giving extends beyond the Christmas season. Throughout the year CSS receives requests for basic needs items, clothing, toys, diapers, and other necessities that make life more challenging when one has to do without.  The volunteers who organize and maintain CSS’ Donation Room respond quickly and compassionately to fill the void. They carefully hand-select new items that will go to the individual and family. These volunteers choose each item as if they were obtaining them for a loved one, giving each care package a very personal touch. 

An invisible gift that accompanies every response is the restoration of dignity and self-worth that gets eroded by poverty and need. It is with this belief in mind that we strive to give only “new” items to the recipients — affording them the recognition that they, too, merit and deserve the good things life has to offer. Although a simple gesture, it has a lasting and defined impact on someone who has felt loss, financial insecurity, and lack of hope. As one volunteer once said, “Anyone of us could easily be in their shoes, and the hope is that someone would be willing to do the same for us.” The goals are simple — care for others as you would wish to be cared for; respect each other — for we are all children of God; and always strive for compassion and understanding.

CSS is not alone behind the scenes. Its community connections help to foster this compassion and understanding with the many blessings the agency has received through diocesan donations, private foundations, and collaboration with the Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Mass. The recently revived Guild for the Blind was able to begin “live” call-in Rosary/Social hours in October. In November, the Sister Rose Soup Kitchen achieved its goal to offer meals to those in need 365 days a year. CSS has also been providing COVID-19 vaccine outreach across all of Bristol County. 

In July of this year, a volunteer newsletter was launched. The purpose and mission of the newsletter was to keep volunteers connected, to bring awareness of their impact on others, and to keep them informed. The newsletter, so aptly named — “Faith in Action,” gives the volunteers and readers a glimpse of how faith can and does move mountains. It allows the reader to see how their donations, time and talent are utilized in their communities, schools, and parishes. The newsletter provides highlights of CSS events, its reach, and how the actions of a community can and does have far-reaching effects. 

CSS extends an invitation to directly participate “behind the scenes” in making God’s love visible through our actions and deeds. We have many employment and volunteer opportunities to directly provide comfort, instill hope, and restore faith in humanity.

If you or someone you know is interesting in joining the dynamic team at CSS, please view our job listing at our website, or contact us at : 508-674-4681.