In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to honor all the women who have made Catholic Charities what it is today by sharing insights from someone who has a unique view into the work of Catholic Charities: Lynette MacCloud, who staffs the front desk at our Administration Center. Lynette has been working with Catholic Charities for more than twenty years. Patient, calm, and kind, Lynette provides hospitality and support to those who walk through the doors of our administrative office. She also provides a listening ear and resources to many who call and are in desperate need of basic essentials—such as food to eat or a place to sleep.
Lynette is one of thousands of women who have been part of the Catholic Charities story over the past 150 years: the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who played a key role in founding Catholic Charities back in 1869… Dorothy Day as well as social justice champions in our own community who have served as role models …and the many women who currently serve on our board, are members of our hard-working staff, generously donate resources, give of their time to volunteer, or are clients whose resilience inspires us every day. Lynette shared her insights:
What drew you to Catholic Charities?
I started working at Catholic Charities in 1997. A friend had worked here and said the organization did a lot of good, so I decided to apply. I first worked at Mary Hall and then at Exodus Residence. In 2000, I started working at the front desk at the Catholic Charities Administration Center in Minneapolis. On my first day, I could really see how the agency helped the homeless and the poor, and I found out immediately that I had a heart for this work.
Would you be willing to share a memorable story?
One man stopped by the front desk maybe ten years ago. It looked like he had been homeless a long time—he was not wearing any shoes, and his feet were raw. He told me, “I have nothing.” He asked where he could find some shoes, clothing, a shower, and a place to live. I gave him all of the resources he asked for, and then he left. Then, about three years later, a man walked into the office and said, “Do you remember me?” I looked into his eyes and then recognized him—it was the same man who had stopped by and asked for help three years earlier! He was clean shaven, well dressed, and looked amazing. He said, “I wanted to drop by and let you know that the help you gave me that day helped me get to where I am today. I am employed. I have an apartment. I have a full-time job. I wanted to let you know Catholic Charities helped me, and I am doing OK.” This same gentleman drops by every two or three years and says, “Lynette, I just wanted you to know that I am still doing OK!” It is experiences like these that keep me going.
What are some of the challenges you face in your job?
Working at the front desk, I find myself working with staff, walk-in clients, donors, visitors, etc. I find out how I may help that individual and take care of those needs. I may receive a call from a person whose loved one has passed away or has recently been incarcerated or may have challenges with mental health issues. I find this kind of caller to be very emotional, and it can be heart wrenching. I listen closely to the caller to see how it is that Catholic Charities might help, and I share our services and outside resources if needed. I do not let this sort of emotional call affect me; it is more important that the caller receives the resources that are helpful for their need. I hang up from that caller and am on to the next situation in front of me that may need my assistance.
What changes have you noticed over the 20 years you have been in your role?
Catholic Charities has always helped homeless persons with mental illness or chemical dependency challenges. I have noticed over the last ten years or so that there are more people from lower-/middle-class incomes who are looking for help…not just the extremely poor. One person in the household maybe has lost a job or experienced a cutback in hours, and they need help with one or two things–like paying utility bills, food or clothing–to help make the ends meet for that month, so they may remain in the home. They’re looking for Catholic Charities to help. Sometimes I’ll receive a call back from a person stating, “I would like to thank you and Catholic Charities for your help and resources. We’re doing OK now.”
What inspires you?
Catholic Charities as an organization cares about the well-being of their staff, making sure staff are treated with dignity and respect. This in turn carries over to the communities and clients we serve. I also like working for Catholic Charities because we help those no one else seems to hear or see and are unwilling to help. We offer dignity and respect and give our clients hope and the tools they need to succeed. In my job/role, I get to see the good that Catholic Charities does.
March is Women’s History Month—are there any women who have served as role models for you?
I have three women from America’s history to current times that are very inspirational for myself. They are: (1) Harriet Tubman – When I struggle with current racism, she keeps me strong and self-centered; (2) Oprah Winfrey – When I think of the possibilities of success for African American women or if I start to feel down, her success helps me to feel blessed for myself as an African American woman; and (3) Michelle LaVaughn Robinson (Obama) – Simply put, she shows how far we’ve come as African American women…completely full circle with Harriet Tubman’s first struggles for freedom.