Catholic Charities 2021 Summer Employee Newsletter

Hi everyone!

We are excited to be back to sharing wonderful agency updates through our first Staff Newsletter of 2021. We hope that you've all had a nice start to the first half of the year, and we thank you all for continuing to make the difference in the lives of those that our services reach.

Please keep scrolling to read some exciting updates, meet new agency staff, and be inspired by heartwarming acts from staff, volunteers, and supporters of Catholic Charities.

-Catholic Charities Advancement Team

A Top Workplace, Thanks to You!

Because of our amazing staff, we were awarded one of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Top Workplaces in Southeastern Wisconsin for the 6th time! Thank you for being a dedicated staff who serve families and people in need in our communities. You make Catholic Charities a great place to work!

From left to right: Zetho Edumakono, Tedricka Frazier, Alexis Knight, Alexis Willis-Page, and Geoff Malone

Community Counseling: Our Staff & Sacred Heart Parish present livestreamed mini-conference

Laura Ramos and Fr. Ricardo Martín of Sacred Heart Parish in Racine

On Feb. 20, 2021, Sacred Heart Parish in Racine hosted a live-streamed, mini-conference in Spanish for people grieving the loss of family who live both near and far. Laura Ramos, Catholic Charities' therapist, gave a keynote presentation on mourning during the pandemic. In the second part of the conference, she was joined by Fr. Ricardo Martín and Catholic Charities' staff, Laura Martinez and Ricardo Cisneros, for a discussion in Spanish on coping with loss and grief in the pandemic.

The recorded event can be viewed on the Sacred Heart Facebook and YouTube channels or on the Catholic Charities Facebook page.

Eagle scout Garden project

Michael pictured above with friends who helped work on the outdoor space of the ADC

With the help of friends and family, Michael was able to improve the outdoor garden space of our Adult Day Center as part of his Eagle Scout project. The group actively worked over the course of two weekends and were able to construct an aluminum fence between the patio and the garden bed. They also cleaned debris and branches, and took care of hauling it to the dump. By mulching the large area behind the garden bed, they helped to beautify the space and prevent weeds! Michael also assembled two new gliding chairs to replace some older furniture.

Annette and the ADC members express much gratitude for Michael's work:

"I cannot begin to thank you enough for choosing us for your project. It will bring joy and happiness to our members for years to come. Our seniors are so excited!... Louis and Gloria have claimed the chairs 😊 They are so comfortable and most importantly enjoyable!!!”


Meet Our New Staff!

Erika Riobó-Gómez, Behavioral Health Therapist-MAO, and Jacob Wild, Web Developer-RIS

Erika joined our team last December, as a Bilingual Therapist at our Milwaukee office. She is originally from Bogota, Colombia, and comes to us with over 10 years of experience in providing therapy to individuals and families. Her favorite part about her role is having the opportunity to serve the Hispanic population in their native language. She met her husband while he was teaching English in Colombia, and they have now been married for 13 years, and have a beautiful two-year-old daughter. In her free time, Erika loves playing sports, especially volleyball, and enjoys watching horror movies.

Jacob joined Catholic Charities in May as the Web Developer with RIS. He was born and raised in Wisconsin, and attended UW-Milwaukee for a Masters in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching. After graduating, he spent quite a few years working and traveling, mostly in Asia and Europe. Prior to Catholic Charities, he worked at the ELS Language Center at Marquette University as an ESL Instructor, and shares that he is now excited to bring his passion for helping others to Catholic Charities as Digital Education Creator. In his free time, he enjoys hiking with his dog, playing music with friends, gardening and cooking. He is excited to be here contributing to such a great organization!

Kristin Gendreau, Adoption Social Worker-MAO, and Brittney Spakowicz, Home Coach-MAO

In February, Kristin became part of our Adoption program staff as a social worker. She holds a Master’s degree in social work from Concordia University. While completing her degree, she gained experience as a School Social Work Intern and at a Foster Care and Adoption Agency. Kristin loves having opportunities to experience adventures, whether that is meeting new people, trying a new activity, or eating at different restaurants. However, a softball field, Brewer’s game, or golfing are more than likely where she will be!

Last December was when Brittany came on board as a Home Coach. She graduated from UW- Whitewater with a degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice. Prior to coming to Catholic Charities, she worked as a REACH Care Coordinator to support youth and families. She has also spent time in Japan guiding students in speaking and writing English. She shares that she can confidently say, “Excuse me, where is the McDonalds?” すみません、マクドナルドはどこですか? (Sumimasen, Makudonarudo wa doko desu ka?) The reason for McDonalds? Just in case she would get lost and would need Wi-Fi at a familiar place! What she likes best about working at Catholic Charities is how we come together as a team and help one another! "Empathy brings us together to have a deeper understanding and I love it!" Her motto: “Teamwork makes the dream work." Brittany resides in Wauwatosa with her fluffy black Cat, Mamoru!

Hasnah Hussin,  Refugee Education Developer-RIS, and Michelle Villalobos, Office Assistant -MAO

Hasnah joined Catholic Charities in June as the Refugee Education Developer with RIS. She is originally from Malaysia and relocated from New Hampshire to Milwaukee in May. She loves communicating with people, especially when it comes to talking about her experiences working within the community. What she likes best about working for Catholic Charities is serving the community in need with kindness and humanity and the passions in everyone's heart to help each other. As someone who lived a refugee life, she respects and honors all the efforts that benefit the humanity. She wants to serve the community in need the best way she can. A fun fact about Hasnah is that she can speak seven languages: Rohingya, English, Malay, Hindi, Burmese, Urdu, and Punjabi! She loves to eat, despite the fact that she does not like cooking. While people do meditation to calm themselves, she will search for good food and drive to grab foods for the peace of my mind.

Michelle initially started at Catholic Charities Waukesha Office to help fill in. Then officially joined our agency in May as the Office Assistant at our Milwaukee Office. Prior to joining us, Michelle worked in financial services and worked with individuals with overdue bills. In her free time, she enjoys making make up tutorials!

Joan Czarnecki, In-Home Homemaker-MAO: Joan has a passion for care giving. Throughout her career, she has worked in a variety of roles primarily supporting preschoolers through High Schoolers. She joined our In-Home Support staff in February.

piñata fun and Table Games at the adult day center

With the pandemic coming to an end, the ADC has been able to get back to regular attendance. The members are enjoying seeing their friends again and having fun with one another.

St. Joseph's Tool Chest collaboration

In May, Jay Sugar (Parish Relations Coordinator) was contacted by St. Joseph's Tool Chest in New Berlin. The group refurbishes donated tools and distributes mainly overseas with the help of another organization. Donations were exceeding the organization’s ability to deliver overseas, and St. Joseph’s Tool Chest began looking for local need. Jay connected with the African Refugee community in Milwaukee via Zetho (Refugee Community Case Manager) and they were able to take home some useful tools and items for their community's use.

A Priceless moment captured

Fr. Widder, Catholic Charities Board Member since 2017

A note of thanks

Along with a donation in honor of her brother, a donor expressed a lovely message of thanks for the caregiving that her brother receives at our Adult Day Center:

"Thank you for the absolutely astounding "overcoming" job you all have done to "accomodate" during the Covid Pandemic and still maintaining faithful, loving care-giving to my brother, Mike. "

It's physical reminders like this that reminds us our work is not going unseen and is appreciated. Everyday that we provide our services, we offer help and hope to those who need it most. Thank you all!

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