Memphis, TN – July 13, 2018 – A team of 11 led by Catholic Charities of West Tennessee (CCWTN) made a significant impact during their week-long mission to the Humanitarian Respite Center of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV), which has seen a tremendous increase in traffic in recent months.
The Humanitarian Respite Center is a first stop for people who have crossed the Texas border into the United States and have been processed and released by U.S. officials. The center provides a place for countless men, women, children and infants to rest, have a warm meal, a shower, and change into clean clothing, as well as receive medicine and other supplies, before continuing on their journey.
CCWTN made the trip at the request of Catholic Charities USA and with the approval of our Bishop, His Excellency, the most Rev. Martin D. Holley, D.D. CCWTN was the first Catholic Charities agency in the U.S. invited to assist at the center, which serves about 300 people each day. The Memphis team included Catholic Charities staff, Catholic community leaders and local Catholic high school students. The mission was a diocesan project in cooperation with CCWTN.
Catholic Charities Executive Director Dick Hackett said the group focused on developing processes that would allow the center to function as efficiently as possible while increasing the dignity of the experience for clients.
For example, the small respite center had only one shower each for men and women. The Memphis group worked with local leaders to get seven mobile showers donated to increase capacity and privacy. Teenagers in the Memphis group worked to reorganize, expand and sanitize the toddler play area. The group also brought in new shelving and reorganized the food storage system, as well as donation processing.
“After we left and had the opportunity to make improvements to better serve these families, I think we all found ourselves wondering who benefitted more,” Hackett said. “Did these families, or did we benefit more, knowing that God sent us to do this work? It was really a life-changing experience – a memory for life.”
The Memphis team included Bill and Rene Platten, Catholic community leaders who are parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help; Bill Brickhill, Catholic Charities chief operating officer; Maria Grazia Boldrin De Felice, Catholic Charities legal assistant; Alexa Pangonas, a student at St. Benedict at Auburndale; Gracie Fogerty and Madelynn Fay, students at St. Agnes Academy; Olivia Stonecipher, a student at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School; and Grayson Clothier, a student at Christian Brothers High School, as well as Hackett and his wife, Kathy.