Catholic Charities sees rise in need, generosity during unprecedented time

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Catholic Charities of Tennessee, which has seen an increased demand for its services in the wake of the deadly March 3 tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic, has also witnessed a surge of generosity to support its programs. 

Catholic Charities projects a gross revenue of $109,000 from its annual fundraiser Pathways to Possibilities held in April, which will exceed the budgeted net revenue of $100,400. Through special coordinated national and local giving days the first week of May, Catholic Charities collected an extra $5,000. 

“The support we are receiving shows that people really relate to having the rug pulled out from under you, and the feeling that with just a little help from a reliable source, you can get back on your feet,” said Judy Orr, executive director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee.

Giving Tuesday Now, which took place on Tuesday, May 5, was an international emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, modeled after Giving Tuesday, which occurs annually the week after Thanksgiving.

Locally, The Big Payback, an annual 24-hour fundraising event sponsored by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, supporting religious, educational, social service and cultural organizations in the area, took place May 6-7.

“For many, typically smaller, nonprofits, these events, especially Big Payback in the spring, are critical to survival,” said Mark Barry, communications and fundraising director for Catholic Charities.

“For Catholic Charities, these events are additional opportunities to reach and connect with potential donors who may not be as familiar with our work as we would hope, but may be inclined to support our work.”

These events are also an opportunity to reconnect with previous donors who might need “a soft tap on the shoulder” to be reminded of their support for Catholic Charities, Barry said.

While they have had to adopt their service model in the wake of COVID-19 precautions, Catholic Charities has been busier than ever. “There is a bottomless pit of need in this community right now,” Orr previously told the Tennessee Register.

These back to back disasters have led to more people in the community who need help getting food and housing, Orr said. “There’s a lot of despair.”

Catholic Charities has been focused on meeting immediate needs, arranging housing for people who lost their homes in the tornado, and providing meals to people who have lost their jobs.

Barry expressed Catholic Charities’ gratitude to all donors who have responded during this time of great need. The response to recent giving campaigns has been “truly a miracle,” he said. To support the work of Catholic Charities, go to

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