Posted: March 5, 2020
Guest Blog By: Liz McDowell, BSW, Catholic Charities’ Program Director

We are quickly approaching our Turning the Tide event in April where Board members, Zeke Bridges and Thomas Moore, head to the Tar River increasing prevention awareness on the eastern side of the state.  During this time leading up to the big day, we want to celebrate agencies and people who are making a positive impact on families and children in the area. 

Meet Catholic Charites of the Tar River!  Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (PCANC) provides support to this agency which offers local families services such as disaster counseling, preparation & food recovery, food pantries, immigration support and parent education in seven counties.

Liz McDowell, BSW, Catholic Charities’ Program Director, shares a little more about the area, the population they serve, the obstacles they face, and accomplishments made in the area of prevention.

Catholic Charities Staff PhotoPitt County is a great place to live because it has many features of the big city but still is small and connected. Greenville is a diverse city, home to East Carolina University and a major medical center, but also has a 24% poverty rate. The populations Catholic Charities of the Tar River Region serve vary. About half of our population is considered elderly; a third are Hispanic, the rest are African American and white; all live in poverty.

Disaster Recovery and Case Management has been an integral part of our services since Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The Tar River office is also part of the Healthy Food Pantry Program and has served over 600 unduplicated families this year, helping to reduce food insecurity in Pitt County. Catholic Charities also has an Intro to Budgeting class where we bring community members together to hone their financial skills and develop a system of accountability in order to maintain savings. Just this year alone, our participants have saved over $10,000 while in our budgeting classes.

In 2000, a Hispanic Woman’s group began and is still bringing the Hispanic women of our community together 20 years later. There they can connect with resources, services, and education to reduce the isolating feeling of being new to an area. Our recent partnership with PCANC has allowed us to launch a Hispanic Parenting Group, where parents can come together and support one another through the challenges of parenting. Working with PCANC is a dynamic process, as they support us in training and programming that serve parents and families our community. Prevention Programs Specialist, Stacey Cunningham, is always available to guide us and give direction when needed.

Like many non-profits, funding is always a challenge. Currently, a major hurdle for us is our quest for bigger office space. Despite these challenges, we know our work in prevention is necessary to build a thriving community. We are passionate about our jobs here at Catholic Charities, and the fact that we have the opportunity to serve our community is a privilege and honor.

Thank you, Catholic Charities for all that you are doing to make prevention a priority in Eastern NC!