Exciting new changes are coming to Catholic Charities in April, which will increase the agency’s ability to help people in need in Columbia and Rock Hill.
In Columbia, Catholic Charities of the Midlands will finally be able to offer all of its services in one central location, one with an added bonus of a historical and spiritual connection to the Church.
As of April, the outreach will operate from 809 Calhoun Street, which used to be the home of Good Shepherd Church. The parish was amalgamated into the Basilica of St. Peter and later closed in 2017.
Staff and volunteers have been working for nearly five years to make the move a reality, undertaking extensive repairs on the buildings.
Now, Good Shepherd’s former parish offices will house Clean of Heart, the decade-old laundry and shower service for the homeless previously located on Laurel Street. As a tie-in, it will also host Catholic Charities clothing closet, which was located on Pickens Street.
On move-in day, agency staff and volunteers worked feverishly to put together shelves and organize supplies. Plastic bins filled with donated clothes and supplies for Clean of Heart were piled in the space that used to be Good Shepherd’s sanctuary.
From the chaos came order — and aid — as Clean of Heart and the clothing closet opened to serve clients in the new locale the first week of April.
Teresa Maybay, site administrator for Catholic Charities in the Midlands, said they now have more space for volunteers to wash and sort laundry for Clean of Heart clients. There are three showers and expanded sink space so people can shave and comb their hair after showering.
The clothing closet is located in a large front room with plenty of space.
“This is a blessing because there have been times that we have had to temporarily halt donations because we ran out of space for clothes at the old location,” Maybay said.
Next, the former Good Shepherd sanctuary will be remodeled into office space and conference rooms. The church’s large crucifix and liturgical items were removed from the sanctuary when it was closed.
Staff will work from the Pickens street offices until that project is finished.
Once the work is complete, all of the agency’s Midlands services will be located on Calhoun Street. The site will also include the headquarters for RENEW, a Catholic Charities program that connects men and women recently released from correctional facilities with the resources they need to re-enter society.
The new location is ideal because RENEW’s clients will have quick access to all the other services Catholic Charities offers, said Nikki Grimball, program specialist. Calhoun Street is also close to other Columbia offices that offer mental health services, help to the homeless, and those struggling with addiction.
“This will make it so much easier for our clients because Catholic Charities’ services are all in one place, and there are other resources right in this area that can help our clients, many who don’t have cars and are on foot,” Grimball said. “It’s going to help them to be able to go to one central location. If clients have to run around to four or five different places to get help, they sometimes give up.”
Renovation of the former sanctuary is set to begin in April and could be complete by late summer.
Another highlight for the agency is their new Immigration Services building that opened on the grounds of The Oratory in Rock Hill. The office will begin serving clients on April 12, with immigration attorney Rakia Turner and administrative assistant Carolina Giorffino.
“It has been a dream for many years to have an immigration office close to Charlotte because the closest immigration court is there,” said Deacon Gabriel Cuervo, director of operations and field offices for Catholic Charities.
The staff will help families with immigration issues, but it will also play a crucial new role as the first location in the state to address what is called removal defense, meaning staff will assist people who have received a formal letter of deportation.
Vanessa Garcia, associate director of Immigration Legal Services, said they are really proud to offer the removal defense service, which is a complex issue.
Catholic Charities also provides immigration services in Mount Pleasant, Berea, Greenville and Hilton Head.