New Catholic Charities office in Ardmore already helping residents

By Charles Albert
The Sooner Catholic

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

Gerald Johnson is not a fisherman, but three years ago he took a new job and now teaches people to change their lifestyles and “learn to fish.” He has been the director of the Ardmore regional office of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Johnson is in charge of seven counties in southern Oklahoma. His duties range from helping immigrants, providing emergency financial assistance and, most importantly, family hope services.

His one-man office handles all the above duties and has visited with more than 740 clients. His No. 1 goal is to help people “break the cycle of multi-generational poverty.”

Many of the clients may not have their GED or worked with a budget. They often are living paycheck-to-paycheck with no contingency plan for emergencies. Most have never had the opportunity to work one-on-one with someone who can offer both support and assistance.

Under the Emergency Financial Assistance Program, Johnson has a limited budget and works with five to six families per week who have financial emergencies.

Ardmore has a large number of immigrant families and 10 percent of Johnson’s time is devoted to helping immigrant needs. He also works closely with various churches to help with the needs of immigrants.

Johnson said Juan Jimenez, director of Hispanic Ministry at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Ardmore, is a great resource with the parish providing a number of programs to assist immigrants. Johnson arranges for occasional immigration attorneys who are fluent in Spanish to come from Oklahoma City to Ardmore to provide seminars on the “dos and don’ts” for immigrants.

Charles Albert is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.

For more information about Catholic Charities in Ardmore, contact (580) 788-2305 or go online to http://catholiccharitiesok.org/regional-offices.