Way More Than a Bag of Groceries

Becky Wisdom

Becky Wisdom shows Guillermo the new crucifix to hang in his home.

I first met Guillermo the day after his home had caught on fire.  I pulled up in front of the charred house thinking, "no one could possibly be here." I walked slowly toward the front porch, but as I approached, it was obvious no one was in the house. 

I looked over toward a van that was sitting in the driveway and saw a person asleep in the driver-side front seat. I went around the van and tapped on the half-rolled-down window. A man slowly raised his head and peered out.  I stuck out my Catholic Charities business card and introduced myself. I wanted him to know I was a neighbor that lived on the street behind his house. I told him I had seen the smoke and flames the night before and wanted to swing by to let him know that Catholic Charities was at his service. In my nervousness, I began talking and telling a story of how our neighbor’s house had caught on fire a few years prior and how emotionally draining that fire was on myself and my entire family even though our own house hadn't been involved.

After I finished my lengthy story, he simply looked up at me and said, “I feel nothing, nothing. My daughter passed away about a year ago and I have nothing left.”

I did my best to console him and said, “Catholic Charities is here, this is what we do. Please call the number on my card and come in on Monday, we can help.”

Two Mondays later, Guillermo showed up in my office door smelling of fire and still nearly covered in soot.  We talked and talked. While Erick Bell arranged a shower for him, we went and gathered some clothing, hygiene supplies, and a towel and wash rag from the clothing area in the Emergency Assistance program. I think that was the first chance in almost two weeks Guillermo had to take a shower.

Guillermo and I met every week to try to get order back into his life.  He was prompt and always there. We set goals each week and Guillermo would always return with each goal met. Catholic Charities helped him with food as he needed it and clothing. He lived in his van as we worked to find contractors, worked with the insurance and kept in contact with his mortgage company. He later was able to get a small travel trailer to live in until his home could be repaired.

Finally, after a very long process, we were able to start rebuilding Guillermo’s home.

Guillermo received services through our Counseling program, began attending Sts. Peter and Paul Church, and visiting with the Parish priest. He was able to gain full-time employment and still managed to make our now monthly meetings.

With the help of Glen Fisher and his subcontractors, Guillermo’s house is now his new home. Tom and Sharon Hufnagel and Steve Stevenson from St. Anne Parish helped add a few finishing touches in the kitchen area, and on October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Deacon Erick Bell performed a house blessing to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Because of those who support Catholic Charities, we are able to help individuals like Guillermo when they’ve lost so much. It’s way more than a bag of groceries…it’s “Love Changing Lives.”