by Laura Dodson, Florida Catholic Correspondent
St. Matthew Catholic Church, Winter Haven and Catholic Charities of Central Florida, Inc. (CCCF) have collaborated to more effectively serve the people of Polk County.
“It started with the Alive in Christ campaign,” explained Father Charles Viviano, pastor of St. Matthew Parish. “We needed to relocate the thrift shop because we had outgrown the space, and part of the campaign was to buy a building.”
With the new building, they had enough space for the thrift shop as well as a satellite office for Catholic Charities.
“Because of our Alive in Christ campaign we’ve been able to embrace a larger scope of ministry. Our people were given the opportunity and took ownership and a lot of ministry is happening here,” added Father Viviano.
Feb. 6 marked the ribbon-cutting of the multipurpose building. In addition to their financial contributions, parishioners were involved with the actual remodeling that created room for the “Regenerations” thrift shop, a satellite office for CCCF to provide counseling services and an office site for the new My Sister’s House, a ministry to mothers and children who are victims of domestic violence.
“Strengthening the presence of Catholic Charities in East Polk County is a priority at St. Matthew, for it speaks to the heart of our parish mission: to live the Gospel through prayer in action,” said Father Viviano.
Under the watchful care of Rosalia Baker, the CCCF program manager for My Sister’s House, two mothers and their children are living safely in fully furnished donated apartments. A third apartment is being readied for another family. And the new office is providing a place for their daily case management.
“Knowing that you’re helping someone to become self-sufficient is a good feeling,” Baker shared.
“The county has been identified as one of the highest in poverty in the U.S.,” said Brenda Reddout, western region director of CCCF. “We asked ourselves, how are we working with the parishes to help the people in need who are hungry in this community? More and more, we’re building relationships with the parishes that will be of benefit to the people.”
Reddout explained that St. Joseph Parish in Winter Haven will continue to maintain an office of CCCF to provide a food pantry and financial help. And in Lakeland, the Lake Morton Senior Center, Agape Food Bank and Regional CCCF office, which provides emergency family assistance, counseling and pregnancy and adoption services, will continue to offer aid.