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Catholic Charities is safety net for many Various programs help residents of Niagara County

Ashley Doran, 17, doesn't hesitate to explain how much the state's Women, Infants and Children nutrition program has helped her 21-month-old son.

"Oh my god," said Doran, of Ransomville. "A lot, especially milk-wise."

Her son, Quincy, a toddler with light blond hair, loves milk. And milk, these days, is expensive. So was formula when Doran was seven months' pregnant and first entered the WIC office administered by Catholic Charities.

"The formula, that was the biggest help," said Doran.

Doran is one of 10,833 people in the county helped by Catholic Charities last year. Agency leaders expect that number to continue to grow as it has in recent years.

The agency will celebrate 80 years of service to Niagara County residents like Doran during a dinner tonight in the Niagara Club.

Kathleen Hall, Niagara County district director, said Catholic Charities' services reach a diverse group of people, from young mothers to couples having marriage problems.

"They are families that may be facing life transitions, such as divorce or loss in their family," Hall said. "They may be families facing challenges with the difficult teenage years and need some help and guidance in building their family relationships."

Services provided by Catholic Charities in Niagara County range from court-ordered classes for domestic violence offenders to outpatient mental health services for children.

Catholic Charities also provides emergency housing services, family therapy, domestic violence counseling and support for grandchildren and for other relatives raising children.

Hall said many programs -- for instance, support for divorced or separated parents -- have been developed to meet specific needs in Niagara County.

Catholic Charities also administers the state's WIC nutrition program in Niagara County. The program helps distribute milk, cheese, eggs and other nutritious food to women who are pregnant or breast feeding, and to young children.

Cheryl Lauth, director of Catholic Charities' WIC office in Niagara County, said many people are surprised to learn how many people can qualify for the nutrition assistance.

"It's really your neighbor that maybe has just fallen on hard times suddenly," Lauth said.

Lauth said her office has had 150 more people apply for the nutrition program in the last few months. She believes the impact of high gas prices and other economic pressures began to affect more families in recent months.

"I think some people were probably holding out to see how things were going," Lauth said. "It's just long enough that they're probably at the end of their rope."

>List of services

The following is a list of services provided by Catholic Charities in Niagara County:

Family services include counseling, emergency services and community collaborative programs.

Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

Home-based family treatment for youths with serious behavior disorder.

Monsignor Carr Institute Children's Clinic offers psychiatric and mental health services for children and their families.

For more information, call Catholic Charities at 282-2351.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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