by Victor Lopez
ODESSA--In Ector County alone, 16 % of the population lives below the poverty line. 32% of people under 25 can't read above a fifth grade level and it is estimated that some 339 men women and children are homeless. It's because of numbers like these that Catholic Charities holds true to their misison, to provide help to everyone who needs it.
"We're not here to help Catholics. We're here to help all the poor and the needy in our community, regardless of religion. So really, it's a charity for everybody," Fr. Mark Woodruff, of St. Elizabeth Seton Church, said.
According to the President of Catholic Charities Board of Directors, John Wilkins, having administrative offices, case workers, a thrift store, and food pantry all under one roof makes it easier to help them all. "Most of our clients, and we've checked this out, most of the people that we do serve, actually are working people. As you know, with minimum wage type things, it's hard to make ends meet especially with children," Wilkins said.
With more and more companies downsizing, it's not hard to guess where the biggest need is.
"Our 2 biggest requests are for food and rent. The requests for food have really gone up. With the request for rent, a lot of people are having a difficult time, especially after losing jobs or losing part of their salaries," Executive Director, Faye Rodriguez, explained.
With the new services center open for business, Catholic Charities can help in other areas too, like GED'S and continuing education. "What we want to do with the Cory Learning Center is provide a continuing scholarship for at least one of our students who wants to pursue beyond the GED level. As a matter of fact, we're working right now with Odessa College. That's going to be our next project to come up with the money for the endowment," Wilkins said.
Wilkins went on to say, the key to the success of this project is an outpouring of community support, "It's always a challenge to come up with money but so far we've done well and we hope we can continue that."
Catholic Charities operates off of individual and corporate donations, grants, fundraising activities and volunteerism. The services they provide are free of charge.