Purposeful Work with Meaningful People

The Catholic Charities of North Louisiana staff with Olah (front, third from left).

by Tiffany Olah, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana

Working at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana (CCNLA) means being part of a greater life experience. It is the opportunity to love others for who they are and not where they come from, understanding different cultural perspectives of those who have walked down different paths, and recognizing that no act of service is too small or meaningless.

The poor, the uneducated, the foreigner, the one whose native language is not the same as yours – all of these I have encountered while working at CCNLA. They are the clients, the fellow staff members and volunteers. I am surrounded by diversity ethnically, educationally and spiritually. Yet each and every person has a story to tell that is both fascinating and inspiring. At Catholic Charities, we not only lend a helping hand, but we make a difference every day to people from all walks of life. The impact of reaching out to others in service and in love can never be underestimated.

Imagine a man coming to CCNLA on an ordinary Tuesday morning. He is there to attend The Money School, a requirement for emergency rent or utility assistance. Imagine that same man, in hopelessness and despair, mentioning to the front desk receptionist that he probably would not be coming back. Ever. Now imagine that same receptionist is intuitive enough to be greatly concerned for this man’s emotional stability. She mentions to one of the case workers that the man needs some extra attention and care. Now, this case worker loves his job, understands his clients well and enjoys spending time with people and getting to know them. So then, imagine that the case worker establishes a rapport with the man, commits to checking in with him on a regular basis, visits him on the weekends at his home and even offers him contract work that gives the man purpose. Realize now that after spending time talking with the CCNLA case worker, the man admits that he tried to take his own life the very night before coming into Catholic Charities.

This man is just one of those whose life was changed by their encounter with Catholic Charities. Often CCNLA staff will encounter the tears of the mother of five who is so behind in bills she has lost all hope. We see the gratitude of elderly clients who need help applying for food stamps online because they don’t know how to use a computer. We even get the chance to celebrate with the man or woman who has been granted legal status and can finally see a path towards becoming a U.S. citizen. These are the reasons why working at Catholic Charities of North Louisiana is both gratifying and good for the soul.

It is also why leaving CCNLA in May will be so bittersweet. On one hand, my family and I have decided that after nine years in Shreveport, it is time for us to move back home to Florida and be closer to all of our family. On the other hand, I feel that I am leaving my CCNLA family too soon, leaving an organization that makes such a positive impact in people’s lives. I hope whoever joins Catholic Charities in my place will feel the same joy and satisfaction of being part of such a wonderful organization   •

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