“Better Together” isn’t just a catchy phrase.
It’s a concrete reality, especially in times of need and uncertainty.
“We’ve been building relationships, making connections, knowing we’re better when we’re working together to serve people in need,” said Dan Lester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO).
Aging Best, a private, not-for-profit agency that operates senior nutrition centers in 19 counties in Central Missouri, has had to suspend its dine-in meal programs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency was looking for extra food to send home with its clients so they could prepare meals for themselves.
The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, a nonprofit agency that helps stock food pantries in 32 counties, had an abundance of pantry staples to share with Aging Best.
“But (the food bank is) very busy trying to provide for so many needs right now,” said Mr. Lester. “Their trucks were all being used, so they couldn’t deliver the food, and Aging Best doesn’t have a vehicle that could handle a pick-up that size.”
Catholic Charities does have a box truck and people on staff who could help.
So what began as a telephone conversation on a Monday led to Catholic Charities personnel picking up 3,000 pounds of food on Wednesday and delivering it to senior centers in Columbia, Jefferson City and Eldon.
“It was a perfect example of how when we communicate, when we talk, when we share, we can make things happen, and needs get met,” said Mr. Lester.
“In this case, we got to be like the glue between two other agencies,” he said.
Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Jefferson City diocese, has been working more closely and broadly with other agencies in the aftermath of last spring’s floods and tornados in the diocese.
“And now that we’ve been working on plans for the renovation of the former Shikles Auditorium, we’ve been making all kinds of new connections,” said Mr. Lester.
Catholic Charities is in the process of converting the building into a home for a food pantry and several other ministries, along with new administrative offices.
It’s a good location, because the Jefferson City Housing Authority owns and manages many of the nearby homes for people who have low incomes.
The areas the Food Bank and Aging Best serve overlap with significant portions of the diocese.
“So we’ve been talking about the becoming a partner with them when we open our food pantry,” said Mr. Lester.
“We’ve also been talking to Aging Best about how to partner with them, because many of the housing units nearby are for senior residents,” he said.
Mr. Lester is convinced that the more Catholic Charities and affiliated agencies, along with local parishes, stay in touch throughout the current crisis and beyond, “the more these opportunities become available.”
“And in that way, we can all be there and serve whenever we’re needed,” he said.
For information about Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri and to learn about the agency’s coronavirus response, visit: cccnmo.diojeffcity.org.