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Catholic Charities Agency helps tornado victims get on their feet

Date: 9/6/2011

Sept. 5, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — For Eric Griffin, the assistance he has received from the local Catholic Charities Agency has made a real difference.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get back on feet as quickly without Catholic Charities,” he told reporters after a press conference on Aug. 31 about the impact made by the donations from the agency.

Griffin was at his Hickory Street apartment by himself when the tornado ripped into the building on June 1. He considers himself fortunate that his wife was picking up their two children from daycare at the time. Considerable damage was done to the building’s wall and roof.

“That’s where my family would have been watching television,” he said of the part of the apartment that received the most damage.

Catholic Charities helped with rent at a new apartment as well as supply appliances the families needed.

He said of his family’s recovery, “it’s a slow process, but it’s coming together.”

With the three-month anniversary of the tornado on Sept. 1, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell met with the press to announce that Catholic Charities USA has made a second grant of $118,000 for relief efforts, bringing that national group’s commitment to $128,000.

In total the diocese had raised more than $437,000 to assist victims of the tornado, McDonnell said.

“Things were wiped out and lives were changed,” he said of the storm.

He wanted to publicly thank Catholic Charities, the Knights of Columbus and parishioners who contributed money and volunteer time.

McDonnell said he was “devastated” by the tornado because of the destruction of the residence for retired priests on Wendover Road and the damage done to St. Michael’s Academy and Cathedral High School.

“We will be back on Surrey Road, God willing, within the next 24 months,” McDonnell said of Cathedral High School. “It will once more rise where it once stood.”

Fifty-six local Catholic parishes raised $209,000 of the $437,000 total was raised, while another $12,000 came from both the state and local councils of Knights of Columbus. Donations also came from outside the area including $10,000 from both the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island and the Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in New York City.

The money has been used to help, so far, 135 families with material assistance and 213 families with direct financial aid. McDonnell said that latter group of home owners is increasing by 20 families a week.

Catherine Buckley-Brawner, the director of the local Catholic Charities, said, “Parishioners from across the diocese have helped in a myriad of ways.”

She noted that all of the money raised for tornado relief will go to that cause and her office will “give money as long as we can give” to those in need of assistance.

Father Anthony Cullen, the recently appointed pastor of Holy Cross Church, said relief crews and volunteers “worked literally a miracle.”

A native of Wales who has been in this country seven years, Cullen said, “I saw the heart of America [in how people reacted to the disaster.]”

For information on how to make a donation, call Catholic Charities at 452-0605.

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