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Success Stories


Contact Center

CCHD successfully translates the Catholic church’s social teaching into action by working closely with community organizations of low-income people. The Contact Center in Cincinnati is a great example of a group that helps the downtrodden find and use their own voices to win justice and effect change. CCHD has supported the Contact Center with local and national grants over the past decade.

Tony Stieritz, director of Catholic Social Action for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, says, “The Contact Center is truly a grassroots organization, with low-income people throughout the leadership. At some point in their experience, most of the board members and staff have been in the shoes of the people they’re serving.”

Contact Center organizer Cassandra Barham is a former welfare recipient who came to the center 17 years ago as a single mom trying to earn her General Equivalency Diploma. “I wanted to make a better living for my seven children,” she says. “If not for the Contact Center, I’d be working a low-wage, dead-end job instead of enjoying helping people find their voices.”

Cassandra says, “I found my voice here and realized I had a way of sharing what real welfare recipients were going through. You need to do the best you can with what you have and say what you need. Now I can get up in front of the Senate!”

“The Contact Center empowers our members and helps build a sense of confidence,” she adds.

Tony says the Contact Center’s bold efforts on behalf of local public education, kinship care legislation and food stamp benefits exemplify the leadership’s “intentional embrace of the whole spectrum of life and social justice issues. They’re a unique organization on the front lines of important issues.”

A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) 

AMOS is an ecumenical community organization focused on identifying and rectifying social justice issues. Through regular “house meetings,” individuals from different backgrounds come together to discuss the pressures they face and form an alternative vision for their community.

Recently, these house meetings led to the development of a fully equipped, professionally staffed mobile obstetric clinic that visits the city of Ames twice a month. The mobile clinic offers prenatal care to expectant mothers who otherwise would have to travel more than 45 miles to the nearest affordable clinic or forgo such care.

AMOS has received local and national grants from CCHD, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines has recognized the organization as one that gives a “voice to the voiceless and underrepresented.” AMOS lead organizer Paul Turner credits CCHD support as “absolutely critical” to the work, helping to keep the lights on, meeting payroll, and underwriting basic operating costs.


Community Labor United

In 2008, Massachusetts passed groundbreaking legislation requiring utilities to maximize energy efficiency.

However, the Community Labor United (CLU) identified a number of issues for lower-income individuals — both in accessing these energy-efficient technologies, and being able to participate in the jobs created to install and maintain the devices. In response, CLU formed an unlikely coalition of labor unions, community groups and environmental groups, known as the Green Justice Coalition.

Through the coalition, utility job postings are sent out to low-income neighborhood via community organizations. Utilities are also testing a project that allows lower-income customers to use grants to cover up-front costs of equipment installation, and finance the remainder through their energy savings.

Lisa Clauson, CLU’s co-director, contributes their success to these “unlikely allies with unique strength.” She credits CCHD’s grant money, used to help pay the salary of a community organizer, as “instrumental,” giving the organization “the capacity to convene the coalition and extend our effectiveness to the state level.”


New Mexico Acequia Association

For more than 400 years, family farmers and ranchers in arid New Mexico have relied on communal irrigation systems known as "acequias" to share scarce water resources. But today, farmers are being pressured to divert water beyond agriculture and livestock, threatening lands and livelihoods.

The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) aims to protect the spirit of equity in more than 1,000 autonomous acequias. Since 1990, NMAA has helped acequias publish previously oral rules and regulations so that they are recognized by the state. In 2003, it won legislation giving acequias the right to approve or deny water transfer in their communities.

NMAA's work exemplifies CCHD's support of anti-poverty efforts in protecting family farms, and for its social justice principles of empowerment and low-income participation. Paula Garcia, NMAA executive director, credits CCHD's contributions as critical to their success. "CCHD challenged us to focus on leadership development, institutional change and helped us develop in a healthy way," she says.

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