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Catholic Charities’ program puts people in position to succeed

Gurnee-12/8/12 Sat./St. Paul Catholic Church
William A. 2 Wildwood has his Mom Suzanne A. Wildwood give Santkiss during Catholic Charities holiday

Gurnee-12/8/12, Sat./St. Paul Catholic Church William A., 2, of Wildwood has his Mom, Suzanne A., of Wildwood give Santa a kiss during Catholic Charities holiday party Saturday in Gurnee. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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To donate to the Hope Fund, send checks or money orders to Help Them To Hope, c/o The Lake County News-Sun, 1225 Tri-State Parkway, Suite 520, Gurnee, IL 60031, or Help Them To Hope, c/o NorStates Bank, 1601 N. Lewis Ave., Waukegan, IL 60085.

Donations also may be made in person at the Hope Box at The News-Sun or at any NorStates branch.

All Help Them To Hope donations go to local service agencies that provide direct financial support and services to Lake County residents in need.

Agencies that benefit from your donations this year are: A Safe Place/Lake County Crisis Center; Catholic Charities of Lake County; Community Social Services; Christian Outreach of Lutherans; PADS Lake County; Open Arms Mission; Mothers Trust Foundation.

For more information, visit

Donations for Saturday totaled $770. Total to date is $21,303.75.

Beach Park

Jane Asperheim: $50.


Tuesday Shiloh Golf Girls: $45.

Nancy Rosing: $100.

Christine H. Saffell: $50.

Lake Villa

Jim and Kathy Kernan: In memory of our son Adam James Kernan, Merry Christmas, Peace and Joy to All, $25.


Lynn Holstrom: In memory of Dan Dirksen, $25.


Ken and Chris Smith: In memory of Jack B. Valentine, $200.

Lois Seymour Wilson: In loving memory of my two sons, Doug and Kevin Seymour, $50.

Winthrop Harbor

Dick and Jean Bogdala: In memory of our beloved daughter-in-law Pam Bogdala, $100.


Gayle Andersen: In memory of Douglas Andersen, $25.

Sarasota, Fla.

Penny Miller and Richard Hershman: In memory of John and Bea Hershman, and Roman and Cresy Miller, $100.

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Updated: January 11, 2013 6:15AM

Catholic Charities’ nationally recognized Family Self-Sufficiency program is breaking the cycle of poverty for women and their children, including Suzanne and her 2-year-old son William.

Suzanne, who will turn 28 the day after Christmas, credits the agency for helping her get her life together and teaching her how to take care of both herself and her child. Caught up in drugs out of high school, Suzanne has been in and out of recovery since 2004. She turned to Catholic Charities’ Mary Pat Maddex Place, a transitional home for women and children, after discovering she was pregnant. She wanted to learn how to be a parent, she said. And how to live on her own.

Last Saturday, Suzanne talked about overcoming obstacles in her life while William played with the contents of a Christmas stocking during the program’s annual Christmas party held at St. Paul Church in Gurnee.

“It’s ironic ’cause I actually used to volunteer for this program for Confirmation in eighth grade,” Suzanne said. “I never thought I would be the one who needed help.”

Catholic Charities caseworkers have helped Suzanne in a myriad of ways: legal help to get a criminal record expunged, help finding and keeping a job, help budgeting (saving so she could buy a vehicle), and help with parenting skills.

Suzanne recalls the days she was “scared and insecure” about her future. While she has gained confidence and independence, she’s grateful that Catholic Charities has her back, like the time the agency helped her make her rent payment while she was recovering from surgery. And she can still pick up the phone and check in with caseworker Megan Schmitz.

“I’ll call her and vent about a car problem, or anything really,” said Suzanne, as she let a squirming William down from her lap to play.

“My son keeps me going,” she said. “I could be having the worst day ever and he comes up and gives me a hug, and everything is better.”

Founded in 1985, the five-year Family Self-Sufficiency program, which is currently assisting 150 families, is designed to help single parents identify and overcome problems, including lack of education, employment, housing, childcare, and transportation. The program partners with about 50 area employers to place clients in jobs.

“The goal is to earn a living wage with benefits,” said Maureen Murphy, Catholic Charities associate vice president. “We used to have a lot of high-paying manufacturing jobs in Lake County, but those have been replaced by a lot of very low-paying service jobs. It takes about two-and-a-half full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lake County. Eighty percent of people eligible for subsidized housing don’t receive it.”

Many parents in the program work and attend school so they can land higher-paying jobs.

This is the most determined group of people you’ll ever meet,” Murphy said. “They put the kids to bed and they’re up studying for an exam and the next morning they get up and go to work. The kids are so proud of their moms. They’re completing high school and going to college. Their lives are forever changed.”

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