Share this story

 | Mary D. Dillard | Photographs by Mary D. Dillard

Growing Together in Love and Hope

Center of Concern Director Makes a Difference in the Community

“When I started, I realized the community didn’t know anything about the agency,” Kermit Elliott says of the Catholic Social Services Center of Concern in Huntsville. Shortly after being hired as director of the Center in 2015, she took to the road, arranging speaking engagements and spreading the word about the agency. “I wanted to help. I wanted to support the agency. I wanted to put money back into the community.” As a result, partnerships were forged with local parishes, including Holy Spirit, St. John the Baptist, and Good Shepherd as well as other local agencies. 

“We are very passionate about serving our community,” Elliott declares. “Many of our clients live day-to-day. Many of them have lost income due to the pandemic. We just want to be able to assist our families.”

The Huntsville Center of Concern, like its five sister agencies serving communities across the diocese, helps families get back on their feet. For many, that means assistance with utilities and rent, clothing, and other essentials. Diaper and baby-wipe distribution events are held for families with infants, who also can receive a bag full of supplies, complete with a hand-made quilt from the ladies of St. John’s and a hand-knitted hat and socks from the ladies of Good Shepherd.

Elliot has countless heart-warming stories from her tenure at the Center of Concern. One, however, stands out in her mind. A young woman and her grandmother were dropped off at the center by her uncle while he went to go run a quick errand. The uncle never returned. Caring for her grandmother, who suffered from dementia, became a full-time responsibility for the young woman, and she was no longer able to work. Elliott was able to step in with rent and utility assistance from the Center of Concern. Learning that the young woman had a nine-year-old son and no way to provide Christmas presents, Elliott also contacted Good Shepherd Church for help. With gifts under the tree for her son, the gratitude expressed by the young woman and her family for the hope and kindness they experienced will always remain with Elliot. 

Numerous similar stories have solidified the Huntsville center’s reputation. When the City of Huntsville was granted $2 million through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program earlier this year, Elliott was contacted to be the lead in fund distribution. “The funding I am able to get is made possible through Catholic Charities,” says Elliott. The trust displayed by the City of Huntsville is a testament to Elliott, her crew of volunteers, and the good work they do throughout the community.

Outreach to those in need is a major part of the mission of our Centers of Concern, but their impact across the community is an aspect of the mission that may not be so evident. From parishioners at Good Shepherd buying Christmas presents for a young boy to others making commitments that make the work of Center of Concern possible, all are helping to build a stronger, faith-filled community. Those being helped and those providing the help are collectively building the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.

Annual Catholic Charities and Communities Appeal

An “outstretched hand to an oft forgotten people.” That was how Bishop Joseph Vath, the first Bishop of Birmingham, initiated the original Catholic Charities Drive in its earliest days. While the outstretched hand continues its reach, our Annual Catholic Charities and Communities Appeal of today has grown to include a strong base of ministries to serve the evangelistic mission of our diocese.

Those ministries, such as Catholic Family Services, Catholic Schools, and the Centers of Concern, enhance countless lives and fill voids in others every day — lives in your own parish, in your own family.

The Annual Catholic Charities and Communities Appeal kicks off on Pledge Sunday, the weekend of September 25 and 26, with a collective goal of $4,513,000. Mark your calendar. A letter from Bishop Steven J. Raica along with a pledge card has been mailed to registered households throughout the diocese. Pledge cards will also be available at parishes for those who do not receive one in the mail. 

Donations to Catholic Charities and Communities can also be made by mail, phone, and online. Stock donations are also gratefully accepted.

Faith in Education

With an additional one-time gift, the faithful can support Catholic Education by giving to the Faith in Education Fund. Contact the Catholic Charities and Communities Office for more details.

Catholic Charities and Communities

P.O. Box 12047

Birmingham, AL 35202