Catholic Charities partnership assists COVID patients

The positive COVID-19 cases in Immokalee surpassed the 1,000 mark on June 11, 2020 according to information provided by the Florida Department of Health.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is collaborating with the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services Division (BES), to help those infected with the virus who have tested positive and are unable to self-isolate.

First, to help alleviate the spread of the coronavirus, Collier County BES is leasing seven apartments, for 65 days, at Horizon Village, a dormitory in Immokalee for unaccompanied migrant and seasonal workers owned by the Collier County Housing Authority.

The reason for this action is that those living in Immokalee live in very simple and extremely close quarters. The efficiency apartments obtained by the county are a safe place for those infected with the virus to quarantine themselves and yet, remain near family and friends.

With this arrangement finalized, Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira was approached by Dan Summers, director of BES, to provide “Move-In-Kits” for those needing the emergency shelter as well as to offer some hot meals and other food they can cook in their temporary homes while in isolation.

Peggy Rodriguez, Program Director of Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, jumped at the opportunity to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in her community. Rodriguez contacted one of her generous donors, Tom and Fran McCarthy, to learn if they would help fund the “Move-In Kit” project. They most graciously agreed. Rodriguez and her team went shopping to purchase the supplies needed for the “Move-In Kits.”

The “Move-In-Kit” supplies include: bed kits (sheets, blankets, pillows, comforter), bathroom kits (towels, soap, toilet brush, plunger), cleaning kits (glass cleaners, dish soap, disinfectants cleaning products, bleach, broom, dustpan, laundry detergent), kitchen kits (pots, frying pans, glasses, dish set, utensils, coffee maker) and an AM/FM radio. The cost of one “Move-In Kit” is about $150.

In addition, Catholic Charities will be providing a daily hot meal from Guadalupe Social Services Casa Maria Soup Kitchen and other culturally appropriate non-perishable food items for the length of their stay. The apartments each have refrigerators and kitchenettes.

Collier County officials said if more space is needed, more rooms can be reserved quickly. Officials are also unsure how many people will ultimately need the temporary sheltering in the coming weeks and months and thus how many additional “Move-In-Kits” will be needed.

Pereira said this partnership with Collier County came out of ongoing discussions on the increasing demands for assistance in Immokalee. The rural farming community has been hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic in two ways. First there have been massive job losses when farms ceased operations. There has also been a spike in positive tests as many of the residents live in communal housing where social distancing and isolation are next to impossible.

Guadalupe Social Services is also home to a food distribution point which has seen a massive increase in demand since the crisis began. The food pantry is open 9-11 a.m. each weekday, and the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen is now open for take-out of hot food during the same hours. Other living accommodations are being made as required and requested by needy families and Collier County officials.

Catholic Charities Board Chair Dick Rogan noted that he had a sense of pride with how Catholic Charities has stepped up to assist in Immokalee and complimented Rodriguez’ team for going above and beyond.

Pereira said the community partnership taking place in Immokalee is an example of how Catholic Charities is adjusting its response to the evolving impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the situation changes in different areas of the Diocese. Primarily, more rural areas are seeing larger numbers of people out of work and an increase in positive cases, so the focus for assistance is shifting.

“It will take all of us joining forces to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to help those who continue to struggle throughout the Diocese of Venice,” she said.

[This article written by Bob Reddy appeared originally on the Diocese of Venice (Fla.) website and is used by permission of the author.]