Archbishop blesses renovated and expanded Catholic Social Services


ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi with the Archdiocese of Mobile walked the halls of the newly renovated Catholic Social Services and To Be Options for Women in Robertsdale, on Friday, Nov. 15, blessing every room, moving on to the Second-Hand Blessings Thrift Store, where he blessed that facility before those in attendance enjoyed refreshments.

“This is a place that blesses so many people,” Rodi said. “And we want to take this opportunity to say, ‘Thank You,’ to all of the staff and volunteers who keep this place running.”

The Thrift Store has been closed since April while being completely gutted and expanded from 3,500 square feet to a total space of 7,500 square feet, said Baldwin County CSS Director Phyllis Beam.

The Catholic Social Services Offices were also completely renovated and expanded to include the Pregnancy Center, which had been housed in a modular building next to the CSS offices.

Beam also expressed thanks to Vance McGown and his crew who completed the renovations.

Rodi was also introduced to St. Patrick School eighth grader Austin Gontarski. The son of Jennifer and Greg Gontarski of Loxley, Austin has set up a foundation to raise money for Catholic Social Services’ Backpack Food Program.

After starting the program as a sixth grader, Austin raised more than $9,000 for the program last year and said his goal for this year is $10,000.

The facility serves the entire Baldwin community. Annually, more than 2,300 people are assisted, often more than once a year. It is estimated more than 90 percent of those who are helped are not Catholic.

Projects and services of Catholic Social Services of Baldwin County include:

• Emergency services: Emergency assistance for food, clothing, rent, utilities and more. Distributes FEMA Funds and Project SHARE Funds. Helps with utilities, Offers some medical assistance.

• Case management: Evaluates client’s situation and offers assistance, referral and follow-up. Works with client intensively to remove barriers to self-sufficiency. Maintains bulletin boards for job opportunities and other resource agencies for clients. Works to prevent homelessness.

• Project REACH: This program serves low-income school-age children throughout Baldwin County by providing school supplies and financial assistance of fees to help children greet the school year with an equal opportunity.

• Project Christmas: Christmas Sharing is an annual project designed to share the meaning of Christmas by providing food, toys and gift items through a coordinated community effort.

• Therapeutic counseling: Program is staffed by a master’s level therapist who is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Counseling is a process for understanding difficult life issues.

• Legal immigration services: Catholic Social Services is recognized by the U. S. Board of Immigration Appeals (DHS) to provide legal assistance in immigration matters.

• Disaster Services: Catholic Social Services is an early responder for disaster relief services. Staff and volunteers provide emergency assistance, information and referral services.

For more information call 251-947-2293 or visit

Information for this report was provided by a press release from Rob Herbst, editor, The Catholic Week with the Archdiocese of Mobile.