Guest Columnist

Catherine McAuley Center works to adapt and support

A multi-lingual sign welcomes students and visitors to the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jan. 30,
A multi-lingual sign welcomes students and visitors to the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

It has undoubtedly been a strange and stressful few weeks for our community, as well as for the rest of the world, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing that has become abundantly clear is that this virus does not discriminate; nobody is exempt, and there is no better time to acknowledge our collective humanity and the fact that we’re all in this together.

As we all adjust to our “new normal” for the time being, marginalized people including women healing from trauma, adult learners, immigrants, and refugees — all of whom we serve at the Catherine McAuley Center — can be hit even harder. Beyond the challenges faced by the general population, these groups have a higher potential to be adversely affected by the suspension of Cedar Rapids public transit, language barriers to understanding rapidly changing guidelines and information, and being isolated in an unsafe environment.

When the people we serve are unable to access the resources and information they need to become self-sufficient, they risk becoming further marginalized. This is why staff at the Catherine McAuley Center, as well as many of our partners and other organizations that support vulnerable populations, are working hard to adapt to the circumstances and continue to provide support and resources to our clients. More than ever, we are grateful for partnership and cooperation in order to serve those that need it most. All of our programs are working to remain accessible to our clients, as well as being a trusted source of information. This has meant providing clients with information regarding COVID-19 while working to dispel any false information, developing protocol for sanitizing and preventing the spread of the virus in residential facilities, scheduling appointments by phone, and most importantly reaching out to clients — especially those that may be the most vulnerable — and making sure that their needs are being met. For our education services, this has meant transitioning to online learning and utilizing YouTube and our social media platforms keep students and tutors engaged.

There are efforts that we can all make it our community as well, even as we practice social distancing. Reach out to your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone you know that may be at risk. Whether this means physical health, mental health, financial resources, basic needs, or a difficult home situation — kind words and a helping hand can make a significant difference. Most importantly, remember to be neighborly and continue to act with empathy once it’s safe to gather again and we return to our normal routines.

For those who have asked how you can help the Catherine McAuley Center and our mission, donations are the most direct and impactful way to support our clients and programs. Although we have limited our acceptance of in-kind donations for the time being, we are still accepting cleaning supplies and non-perishable food items due to high demand. Thank you for your support, stay healthy, and be kind. We hope to see you all soon.

Paula Land is executive director of the Catherine McAuley Center.

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