As the weather turns colder, more and more people across southern Nebraska turn to Catholic Social Services (CSS) for help. CSS is ready to respond with several different programs, each largely dependent on generous benefactors.
It’s hard to cite a most-urgent need. This time of year, it seems that every aspect of CSS’s multifaceted outreach is taxed.
Food is a constant want. CSS operates food pantries in multiple locations, plus a mobile food pantry that delivers truckloads of goods to every corner of the Diocese of Lincoln.
At the First Friday Fish Fry Nov. 5 in Lincoln (which supports another CSS project: St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes), any guest peeking into the pantry would have seen shelves more empty than full.
"Thanksgiving is coming up – and Christmas," said Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services.
As always, his plan is to give away the fixings for complete Thanksgiving meals.
"It’s not just the turkey," he said. "It’s the stuffing, the potatoes, the vegetables...."
CSS needs to stock up – and stay stocked – on these items and all other types of foods, including perishable items.
"Since we have these large walk-in coolers and freezers, people can donate cheese, meat and so on," Father Kubat said. "It’s good to give frozen meat, because we can throw it right in our freezer."
Speaking of freezing, outside temperatures are heading that way.
"We’re going to need coats, scarves, gloves, hats, boots. We do every year," Father Kubat said.
He recalled one client in particular, a young man who was living in Lincoln temporarily while receiving chemotherapy.
"He didn’t have a winter coat or any winter clothes, and he didn’t have enough furniture or food in his apartment. This kid needed help with everything," Father Kubat remembered.
The young man couldn’t even pay his utilities. He was trying to heat his little apartment by turning on the oven.
"The only thing worse than being in need is being alone and in need," Father Kubat said.
The CSS team went to work.
"We gave him a space heater to tide him over, and we were able to get his utilities taken care of," Father Kubat said. "We gave him food, a winter coat, gloves and so forth."
None of this would have been possible without faithful Catholics across the diocese who donate money, goods, time and talent to CSS.
"If it wasn’t for the help of our donors and volunteers, there would be a big gap in our ability to serve the 20,000 people we help in one way or another across southern Nebraska," Father Kubat stated.
The continuing generosity of these faithful supporters have enabled CSS to expand. In the last few years, CSS has grown all across the diocese with more brick-and-mortar locations, more travelling food pantries and travelling thrift stores.
CSS has also launched new projects, such as the Saint Gianna’s Women’s Homes for women who are abused, threatened or suffering the pressure to abort.
"Our ability to help people is growing every year," Father Kubat said.
In addition to the practical support of food, clothing, housing, vehicles, and help paying bills, CSS has an extensive clinical program that assists all people in southern Nebraska – regardless of religious affiliation, income level, or ethnicity – with family and mental health issues.
Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and New Year’s are all occasions that can make emotional and spiritual anguish more painful.
"We’re seeing more clients than we ever have at our Immaculate Heart Counseling Center and across the diocese," Father Kubat said.
He added that cash donations are critical to this program. CSS maintains a grant system that helps fund treatment for uninsured or underinsured people who need clinical services.
"We accept most insurance and Medicare," Father Kubat said, "But when somebody is uninsured or underinsured, where do they go for mental health needs? CSS is one of the few places I know of that they can be served."
Last year, he said, "We gave away almost 100,000 in grants. It’s a vital part of our mission."
Father Kubat reiterated his thanks to all CSS supporters again and again.
"I would be remiss in not stating my gratitude," he said. "There’s a lot of joy in this work… not only for me but for our staff and our volunteers. And I’m sure that’s true for our benefactors. When they donate to us, they know they are helping people who really need help."
Above all, Father Kubat is grateful to the intercession of the saints.
"We have many patron saints at CSS, and their intercession is powerful," he said.
He hopes that people across the diocese will join in with their own prayers to keep this important outreach going… and growing.
Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register.