Weekend appeal to help Catholic Charities support thousands of people in six counties

Doris McCutcheon, a volunteer with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan's Foster Grandparents Program, is pictured at Herrington Elementary School in Pontiac, where she helps out the first-grade class. The program, which matches senior volunteers with youths in need, is one of many supported by Catholic Charities' annual collection, which will take place this weekend, Nov. 17-18, at parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit. (Courtesy of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan) 

Depression aid, youth support and senior services among the myriad ministries supported by CCSEM's annual appeal

METRO DETROIT — Because of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, Margaret is alive and getting help for her depression. 

“Because of a lot of family and professional issues, I was in a real dark place,” said Margaret, whose name is being withheld by Detroit Catholic to protect her privacy. “My job was taking a downturn, and, because of mistakes I had made, I didn’t know if I was going to lose my job. My children were rebelling as they reached adulthood. Everything I had seemed to be taken away from me.”

Margaret is one of 6,500 people across six counties in the Archdiocese of Detroit who sought and received help over the past year through Catholic Charities' behavioral health and substance abuse counseling services. 

The program is one of the many ways Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM) serves as the Archdiocese of Detroit's principal agency for works of mercy, helping people like Margaret to receive the help they need. 

This weekend, parishioners across the archdiocese can ensure such help remains accessible through CCSEM's annual appeal, which will take place during Masses Nov. 17-18.

The collection is the agency’s biggest annual fundraising effort. This year, the agency hopes to raise $350,000 to fund a variety of efforts that serve more than 20,000 people throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit's six counties.

Over the past year, CCSEM has served numerous needs, including:

Drug abuse prevention: In late October, the agency co-hosted its first Sports Impact event, partnering with the Detroit chapter of the NFL Alumni Association in bringing together more than 700 Detroit-area high school students to discuss the impact of the nationwide opioid crisis.

Nutrition: Each year, volunteers serve more than 11,000 people at the All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in southwest Detroit.

Pregnancy care: Catholic Charities supported more than 400 expectant mothers by providing health care assistance, counseling, and food and clothing aid through its pro-life ministry, Project Hope. In addition to the program's excellent reputation, Project Hope’s Clinton Township counselor Dawn Still was named Michigan Counselor of the Year by Real Alternatives, a multi-state nonprofit pregnancy aid resource service.

Foster care and adoption support: CCSEM provides temporary homes for children and teens in the foster care system by offering training, resources and support to foster families, as well as guiding numerous families through the adoption process. 

Troubled youth support: Catholic Charities provides a supervised independent living program to help teens aging out of the foster care system to transition to independent adulthood.

Senior citizen services: Through its senior volunteer services, Catholic Charities partnered with more than 4,000 local seniors — many low-income — last year to serve the community and one another. 

Hispanic services: CCSEM provided education and support to more than 2,000 individuals from the Hispanic community, enabling them to become self-sufficient and successful with an emphasis on building individual and family strengths.

Behavioral health: The agency serves more than 6,500 people across six counties through its behavioral health and substance abuse counseling services.

Real people, real help

When Margaret's depression became too much for her to handle alone, she consulted with Catholic Charities' Lapeer County office to find the help she needed. 

Although she prayed, attended Mass, and regularly went to confession, “it didn’t seem to help,” Margaret said. “In the worst times, I would pray that God would take my life, sometimes pondering why I didn’t just do it, commit suicide.”

For financial reasons, Margaret didn’t think she could afford counseling. 

According to GoodTherapy.org, “some therapists may charge as much as $200 or more per session, but most will charge $75-$150 a session. Many therapists work with a sliding scale fee schedule, which means their fee will depend on your income level.” 

Even though she and her husband had jobs, other expenses put those fees out of Margaret’s reach. Or so she thought.

It wasn’t until she contacted Catholic Charities that she learned help was available. And nearby. Because of her employer’s insurance coverage, she was able to qualify for counseling for merely $12 per session. She was also able to get an appointment quickly, within her scheduling needs.

Now, a month into her therapy, Margaret has markedly improved. 

“I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m learning new ways to deal with life,” she said. “I’m more confident and I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t be more grateful to CCSEM and my counselor, Barb.”

As helpful as Catholic Charities has been to Margaret and others facing a variety of life’s challenges, the agency also serves as a home base for those wishing to serve others. One example of this is Doris McCutcheon, one of seven people honored as a 2018 Senior Volunteer of the Year by the state of Michigan.

McCutcheon received the Governor’s Service Award for her work with Catholic Charities' Foster Grandparents program, mentoring first graders at Herrington Elementary School in Pontiac. McCutcheon had long been active in education and social service activities and chose to remain active as a volunteer upon her retirement six years ago, imitating her parents, who had also been active community servants. 

“I wanted to get involved,” she said. “I did not want to just sit at home and do nothing.”

Organized through CCSEM, foster grandparents provide support to children with special or exceptional needs and serve as role models, tutors, mentors and friends. Serving 20 to 40 hours per week, income-eligible volunteers also receive a small stipend, pre-service orientation and monthly in-service training sessions.

Working closely with students not only helps them; it also helped McCutcheon deal with the death of her daughter, Monica, also an active volunteer. 

After her daughter died, McCutcheon had some health problems, and she was suffering physically and emotionally.

“Volunteering with this program has brought me through it,” McCutcheon said. “It has given me a reason for being, because we all have a purpose, and we are here to fulfill that purpose. It’s given my life even more meaning.”

Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan has 13 locations throughout the archdiocese and offers adoption, family support, behavioral health/substance abuse counseling, immigration support, and senior citizen services. It also offers many volunteer opportunities. For more information, visit www.ccsem.org; email [email protected]; or call (855) 882-2736