OUR AGENCY HAS BEEN ACCREDITED BY THE COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION!!!
Council on Accreditation (COA) accreditation is both a significant achievement and a powerful promise. It means that we have met rigorous, internationally recognized standards of excellence – in the quality of our services, as well as the quality of our management.
Our accreditation was achieved under the thorough examination of COA-the leading accreditor of social service and behavioral healthcare organizations in the world. COA accreditation provides us with important advantages:
- Assurance of the credibility of our programs and services.
- Confirmation of our integrity as an organization.
- Confidence in the quality of services we deliver and in our dedication to continuous achievement.
In short, COA accreditation is an objective, reliable and ongoing verification that we are an organization that you can trust and rely on. It is one more way that we are demonstrating our commitment to providing you with the very best services!
It was a cold and cloudy day in November when a late afternoon phone call startled Theresa and broke her away from the pile of paperwork on her desk. She picked up the phone and said "Hi, I am Theresa with Caring Choices how can I help you?” The female voice on the other side of the phone was barely above a whisper and tinged with a slight southern drawl. "Can you please help me,” she said "I am alone, pregnant and scared.” Theresa could sense this woman was in a desperate situation and immediately called upon her years of nursing to allow her voice to sound calm and reassuring while she quickly gathered the young woman’s information and assessed the situation. She learned the woman’s name was Heather and that she had called Caring Choices at the urging of a friend who was concerned that Heather would give birth in the car where she was currently living. Heather told Theresa that she had an ultrasound when she was eight weeks pregnant and that was around seven months ago. Heather’s story began to tumble out quickly now with intermittent pauses as she struggled to hold back tears. She had been living in her car in a rural area for several weeks now. She had fled an abusive relationship and was terrified that he would find her but with the impending birth of her baby she knew she needed to find someone to help her. Theresa was able to get her to agree to meet in a church parking lot the following morning.
Theresa arrived at the church thirty minutes early and waited anxiously for Heather to arrive. A few minutes before their schedule meeting time a late model Ford with a broken headlight and so rusty she couldn’t be sure of the color approached the parking lot. The car drove over to the parking space next to Theresa‘s car and a young woman got out. Theresa opened the passenger door and the young woman slipped in and sat down. She was thin and petite with blue eyes and wispy shoulder length blonde hair. Her belly was full and rounded as expected for a pregnancy this close to term. Theresa began to mentally note her physical appearance. Heather’s face was pretty with soft delicate features but her eyes were rimmed with dark circles and her skin tone was ashen. She looked tired and undernourished but she didn’t appear to have any serious health issue. She held her head low and mumbled an apology for not cleaning herself better but that the gas station bathroom had been out of soap. Theresa asked if she had had eaten recently and she replied that she had some snack food in the car, but hadn’t had a meal since the previous morning. Theresa pulled a bag from the backseat of the car and offered her a breakfast sandwich and juice. Heather smiled and eagerly ate the sandwich. When she finished eating more of her story unfolded. She had been forced to have relations with her baby’s father. In fear she fled to another city, but a couple of months later the same man discovered where she was and tried to hurt her. The broken headlight on her car served as a reminder of the encounter. Afterwards, she felt safer moving around and never staying long at any location.
Heather had received no prenatal care and she did not have insurance. She had very little gas and would have to choose whether to buy gas or buy food. She knew the time to deliver her baby was near and she was frightened by the idea of being alone when the baby arrived. Theresa reassured her that she would receive the help she needed and she would not be alone. For the first time since they met Heather’s shoulders relaxed and her mouth curved into a gentle smile. Heather followed Theresa to a nearby gas station and then to Gainesville where Caring Choices provided her with a room to stay in, nourishing food and some personal care items. Tears of gratitude streamed down Heather’s face as she glanced between the freshly made bed and shower. Before Theresa left, she reassured Heather that she would be safe and that Theresa would pick her up in the morning.
The following day, Theresa took Heather to the health department to get a proof of pregnancy and to apply for Medicaid. Heather began to appear less fearful and a bit more confident as she made an appointment to see a doctor and created a delivery plan. At the doctor’s office, they learned the baby, a girl, was due in about two weeks. Heather was shown how to get to the hospital and knew she could call Theresa whenever she needed to.
Now that she was prepared for the birth of her child, Heather and Theresa began discussing Heather’s options and future plans. Although Heather had often dreamed about having a child one day, she felt overwhelmed with the idea of being a parent at this time in her life. "I am still trying to figure things out for myself and a baby right now would make things much harder”, she said. "I can barely take care of me”, she continued. "I want my baby to have a chance at a better life and I can’t give that to her right now”, she sighed as she caressed her belly. Heather decided to place her child with a family who was able to provide all the things Heather dreamed her child would have. Theresa sat with Heather as she looked over profiles of adoptive parents. "This is the perfect family!” she squealed with delight to Theresa. "They even have a dog just like the one I had growing up”, she added excitedly. A few phone calls later plans were made to meet the family.
Ten days after their first meeting Heather called Theresa in the early morning hours. Sleepily, she said, "I think my water broke.” Theresa picked her up and less than an hour later Heather was admitted to labor and delivery. She was not having contractions yet, so with Theresa’s help, they began to gather family medical information that would be helpful for the adoptive parents. Heather told the nurses she did not want to see the baby so Theresa would be with the baby after birth and through the time in the nursery.
Later that day, a beautiful baby girl was born. Theresa was there to welcome the baby into this world and accompany her to the nursery. Soon afterwards, the perspective adoptive parents arrived, glowing with anticipation and eager to meet their daughter.
In recovery now, Heather talked with Theresa about the birth experience and verified once again her desire not to see the baby and her intention to continue with the adoption process. Theresa reminded Heather again that she could change her decision during this time in the hospital. In the meantime, Theresa would spend time with the baby in the nursery, holding and feeding her, changing her diaper and rocking her to sleep. Theresa also visited with Heather, reassuring her of the baby’s health, her ten fingers and ten toes and her eagerness to be fed.
The night before her release, Heather did decide to go to the nursery and see the baby she had carried for nine months. She looked down at the tiny bundle and marveled at her beauty and the peaceful way she slept. Heather later said "I knew for sure, right then, that I had made the best decision for me and her. She would be in a safe and loving family and I could concentrate on getting my life straight.”
After her release from the hospital, Heather and Theresa continued to work together to plan her next steps. Caring Choices arranged for food, a safe place to stay, and gas for the next several weeks while Heather looked for work and determined where she would live. Theresa comforted Heather as she worked through the emptiness and the letting-go involved in the grieving process. Then gradually, the sadness and pain began to be replaced with hope and joy in the anticipation of the new beginnings—for Heather and for the daughter she cared for so much.
Based on surveys of Feeding America's partner agencies and more than 60, 000 clients, the report, Hunger in America 2014 (176 pages, PDF), found that over 46 million people in the United States, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors, are served by the 58, 000 food pantries and meal service programs supported by Feeding America's 200 foodbanks. Among the organization's clients, 43 percent are white, 26 percent are African-American, and 20 percent are Latino. The report, believed to be the largest and most comprehensive study of people seeking food assistance ever conducted in the U.S., also found that 620, 000 households which include at least one active U.S. service member receive food assistance from the Feeding America network, while 20 percent of client households include at least one veteran.
According to the report, survey respondents had a median annual income of $9, 175. And while 54 percent of all households surveyed and 71 percent of those with children included at least one member who has been employed in the past year, in more than half (57 percent) of those families, the longest-employed person held a part-time job. In addition, the report found that many surveyed households included a member with high blood pressure (58 percent) or diabetes (33 percent), and two-thirds of all respondents (66 percent) reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
"The results from this historic study are truly alarming, " said Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken. "Many of the people we serve struggle not only to get enough to eat, but also to keep a roof over their heads, the lights on in their homes, and to cover their healthcare and medicine costs. Hunger in America 2014 highlights the enormous hardships faced by the millions of low-income families who rely on the Feeding America network for help."
Epiphany Catholic School staff and students teamed up with Catholic Charities to recognize September 4th as Hunger Action Day. Students were encouraged to wear orange and bring in jars of peanut butter and jelly to be donated to Catholic Charities. September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign asking the public to take action on the issue of hunger.
Epiphany Catholic School in Lake City is creating a school wide garden with vegetable and herb plants donated by Southern States Cooperative. Students will learn about gardening and care for the plants with the hope of a bountiful harvest. The Epiphany harvest will then be donated and distributed to those in need through the Catholic Charities Mobile Pantry Outreach project and Florida Gateway Food Bank. The garden is supported by many hands including Epiphany Catholic School and Church families, Epiphany Catholic Council of Women and the Knights of Columbus.