It may not be easy to bask in holiday cheer when domestic violence, abuse, neglect, poverty, mental illness and chemical dependency get in the way.
Yet by supporting Kinship Family and Youth Services Inc., donors can help bring hope to people in trying situations.
Kinship, a recipient of Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal funding, has sought for more than four decades to improve the quality of life for Southern Tier families and individuals. The organization is a grassroots effort established in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the Weider brothers: Tim, a former diocesan priest; and Joe, who became Kinship’s executive director in 1975 and remained in that position until January 2011.
Kinship has grown into an organization that by 2010 was serving more than 2,000 people in six counties with an annual operating budget in excess of $3 million. Kinship’s main office is in Hornell, with other offices and services spread throughout Steuben County.
Kinship has a longtime collaboration with diocesan Catholic Charities. Beginning with Joe Weider’s retirement earlier this year, a restructuring has seen Kinship integrate more fully with Catholic Charities of Steuben, with Laura Opelt — executive director of Catholic Charities of Steuben — now directing Kinship as well.
Opelt emphasized that centralizing administrative functions has not changed the nature of Kinship’s services. If anything, she said, it has swelled the total package of offerings that Catholic Charities can provide to the community.
“Kinship really helps to broaden the scope of our work. This really helps to round us out,” Opelt said, noting, for instance, that people utilizing Kinship also may be in need of Turning Point, an emergency-services program operated by Catholic Charities of Steuben providing short-term financial assistance for such expenses as food, rent, utilities, medical needs and transportation.
Opelt said Kinship and Catholic Charities have complementary strengths and “a great leadership team when you combine both organizations. It’s strengthened our ability to provide better services for all families.”
Among Kinship’s program offerings are:
* S.H.A.P.E. (Supportive Home and Parent Enrichment): This is an intensive family-preservation program that provides in-home guidance, instruction and support to parents with children who are at risk for out-of-home placement due to neglect or abuse.
* Healthy Families Southern Tier: This program provides home-based education and services for expectant and new parents, helping to reduce the number of babies born with low birth weight, prevent child maltreatment and promote academic success.
* Foster care: Therapeutic foster care is provided for children who come from abusive backgrounds. Kinship’s foster homes specialize in the care of children with emotional and behavioral health-care needs.
* Chemical dependency services: Aid is provided in recovery from alcoholism and other chemical addictions. Kinship offers a community residence, supportive-living apartments, counseling, outpatient services, and educational and vocational services.
Opelt said she asked several Kinship staff members how they might utilize future Christmas Appeal funding. Healthy Families would put it toward hearing screening equipment, in an effort “to provide universal and accurate hearing screening to families who are many times isolated from services,” noted Lisa Galatio, director of Healthy Families. Both Healthy Families and S.H.A.P.E. would earmark money for toys, games, books, and arts-and-craft supplies that staff could bring on visits, as well as gas cards, grocery cards, diapers, and hygiene items for families in need. In the area of therapeutic foster care, Christmas Appeal allotments would enable foster parents to provide their foster children with Christmas gifts.