Catholic Charities of Livingston County to expand - Catholic Courier

Catholic Charities of Livingston County to expand

During the next three years, Catholic Charities of Livingston County plans to undertake its largest-ever programming expansion, thanks to a national AmeriCorps*VISTA grant that will fund annual stipends for five full-time volunteers for three years.


AmeriCorps*VISTA members help an organization extend their reach though outreach or partnerships with other organizations, or by recruiting volunteers, said Siobhan Dugan, public affairs specialist for the federally funded AmeriCorps.

“All this is capacity-building,” said Joe DiMino, executive director of Catholic Charities. “This is not hands-on. A person comes in for a year and builds the systems crucial for staff members or volunteers to execute their plan.

“After three years, these programs have to be self-sustaining,” he added.

An AmeriCorps*VISTA member will work with the local hunger-fighting organization FoodLink to establish a Mt. Morris food pantry dedicated to distributing fresh food. The pantry will distribute nutritious recipes and tips on how to use fresh food, and will have a layout to similar to that of sample stations seen in local grocery stores, DiMino said. He said the goal is to help address obesity among people in poverty. In the second year, the agency hopes to expand the pantry into a Kids Café, which would provide hot, healthy daily meals to poor children in the Mt. Morris area.

The agency also plans to start Furniture Link, a program in which volunteers pick up furniture donations and deliver them to people in need.

“People in poverty never consider buying furniture or an appliance,” DiMino said. "It’s not on their radar screen. They are just thinking about where to get their basic life needs. On the flip side, people that have jobs and the ability to buy new furniture have nothing to do with the old.”

The grant will also help expand the agency’s Connections program, which teaches area women moving from social services how to make crafts and sell them in a Mt. Morris gift shop and online.

“The concept is just catching on, but it’s becoming very apparent that we need expertise on both ends: the front and back shop,” DiMino said.

He said Connections needs someone with retailing and marketing expertise to increase storefront and Internet sales of donated items and those made by participants. It also needs someone to develop a training program in advanced sewing, computer literacy, office administration, financial literacy, online and retail sales, and job-hunting skills.

Lastly, the organization hopes to start a program called Home Safe Home, which would reduce home hazards for low-income senior citizens. The goal is to help seniors maintain their independence in their homes, DiMino said.

To get these programs up and running, an AmeriCorps*VISTA member needs to be recruited in each of the five areas, DiMino said.

AmeriCorps*VISTA is accepting applications for these positions through Oct. 3, and the agency hopes to fill all of the positions by November. Each AmeriCorps*VISTA member will receive a $10,380 annual stipend plus a modest health-care benefit, and qualifying members also may receive a child-care allowance. DiMino noted that the amount of the stipend is equal to the poverty income level of the community in which the workers will serve.

AmeriCorps*VISTA members would have to reapply each year to continue in the positions.

Upon completing a year of service, AmeriCorps*VISTA members may choose a $4,725 education award, which can be used to pay off student loans or for continuing education, or a $1,200 cash stipend.


EDITOR’S NOTE: For information, contact Joe DiMino at 585-658-4466 or Details also are available by clicking "Find a Program" at


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