Catholic Charities responds to COVID-19 pandemic


With a state of emergency declared in New Jersey due to the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is taking steps to protect its clients, staff, and volunteers, and preparing for the likelihood that the demand for Catholic Charities’ services will rise.

“In a worst-case scenario, as this crisis continues, we do expect a greater need for social services like ours in our communities,” said Marlene Laó-Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton (pictured, right). “We are doing short-range and long-range planning to address that anticipated need.”

“At this time, we are fully operational at a heightened state of universal precautions,” Laó-Collins continued. “We are following all CDC and state recommendations, participating in calls with experts, and constantly monitoring the situation. But these really are uncertain times. For that reason, we are continually reevaluating our response to this crisis, collaborating and coordinating with our partners on the county level and other community providers.”

Need will grow

Specifically, the need for Catholic Charities and other social services is expected to grow in several ways:

  • As schools close, vulnerable students who rely on schools for breakfast and lunch will be home without that critically needed support. Consequently, food pantries likely will see more families, and those families will need additional groceries.
  • As employers implement social-distancing measures and this crisis impacts the economy, low-wage workers may go for an extended period of time without a paycheck – or may lose their jobs altogether. That could create a surge in the number of people who need basic-needs services such as rental assistance and employment assistance.

Changes under way

For existing clients, the agency is testing and preparing its technology infrastructure to ensure that clients will be able to maintain access to medications and doctors for as long as the crisis continues.

“Additionally, because we have residential programs and people who rely on us for their everyday needs, we are being prudent in all our plans to make sure they have all the resources they need,” Laó-Collins said, referring to behavioral health group homes and shelters for people in recovery from domestic violence.

In an effort to facilitate social-distancing, Catholic Charities has implemented changes in several programs:

  • Food pantries in Burlington, Lakewood, and Trenton continue serving people in need, but staff are distributing pre-packed bags at the door.
  • Group counseling and support groups have conformed to the guidelines set by state and local public-health officials. Clients can directly contact their specific program to learn of specific limitations.
  • The free tax preparation offered at 39 N. Clinton Ave., Trenton, is indefinitely suspended.
  • Programs with evening hours have suspended those hours (excluding residential programs) to ensure that staff and clients comply with the governor’s 8 p.m. curfew.
  • The Good Friday procession and Stations of the Cross held annually by El Centro is canceled.

Donations welcomed

Because the need for basic-need services is expected to rise, Catholic Charities welcomes donations of money and gift cards to help us continue to serve people in need through this crisis. To give, click here.

Clothing donations are suspended at Community Services until further notice. But people can still donate clothing at Catholic Charities’ publicly accessible clothing bins. Locations: Catholic Charities administration building, 383 West State St., Trenton; Burlington Community Services at 450-460 Veterans Blvd., Burlington; Linkages at 4261 NJ-33, Tinton Falls; and Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Burlington County at 595 Rancocas Road, Westampton. Bins at several church locations listed here also benefit Catholic Charities programs.

2020 Census sites still open

The coronavirus crisis is unfolding as the federal government undertakes its once-a-decade census. In fact, the 2020 Census opened for reporting just last week.

To help improve census reporting by historically under-counted groups like immigrants, Catholic Charities opened up three public-access centers where the public can come for assistance in completing the census. Those public-access census-reporting centers remain open, for now, as Catholic Charities consults with census officials on best strategies moving forward. Locations: El Centro, 327 S. Broad St., Trenton; Community Services-Ocean, 200 Monmouth Ave., Lakewood; and Community Services-Burlington, 450-460 Veterans Dr., Burlington.

Census parties planned at those locations have been indefinitely postponed.

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