About Our Lady of Guadalupe Center
Catholic Social Services (CSS) is an anti-poverty agency whose goal is to empower people of all faiths and backgrounds with the tools they need to reach their full potential. CSS’ diverse services help thousands of people in central and southern Ohio each year—most of who are low-income seniors and the working poor.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Center (OLGC) is a program of CSS, which evolved from an immigrant woman’s desire to give back to the Hispanic community in Columbus. When Catalina Santos moved to Columbus, she saw the immigrant Hispanic community needed food. As she had once been homeless and relied on food pantries to feed her family, she felt called to help others in need, distributing food in the community from her personal vehicle.
The Center was the size of a three car garage and not only were we providing people with nutritious food, we were also offering English classes and legal consultations. Our physical space was so small; we had to turn both people and partners away. The Foundations invested in our capacity to move to a site three times the size, and consequently, made it possible for more people to access needed services and additional partners to be engaged and supportive of this community.
Rachel Lustig, CSS President & CEO
Inspired by Catalina’s work, CSS opened the OLGC food pantry in 1999. Continuing the family tradition of service to the community, Alma Santos, Catalina’s daughter, serves as the OLGC Coordinator. For two decades, OLGC has been meeting the unique needs of the immigrant Hispanic population in Columbus by providing food and emergency assistance. At OLGC, 92% of clients are Hispanic and 96% have incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. CSS is the only agency in Franklin County offering a food pantry and supportive services specifically designed to meet the needs of this population. Additional services at OLGC include English as a Second Language classes, nutrition classes, preventative health screenings, legal consultations and referrals and comprehensive case management. These services seek to target the root causes of poverty and empower clients to create better lives for themselves and their families.
Foundation Support for Our Lady of Guadalupe Center
By 2015, after years of steady growth, OLGC had outgrown its space. The food pantry was providing over 87,000 meals each year; of the client families served, 38% had an annual income of $5,000 or less. CSS recognized the need for additional services that would empower families with the tools to become self-reliant, but OLGC lacked space and capacity.
In response, CSS launched a capital campaign to expand OLGC and offer additional services to help more families strengthen and stabilize. The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation partnered with The Columbus Foundation, jointly providing $175,000 for OLGC to relocate to a larger space.
Today, OLGC has grown from a small food pantry born of the personal commitment of one dedicated volunteer to a community center offering a host of supportive services for thousands of people each year. Now operating from a 3,500-square-foot facility, OLGC is able to provide a greater variety of fresh foods in the pantry. In addition, OLGC now offers expanded learning opportunities, including job skills training and mentoring, and children have a safe place for supervised play while their parents participate in programming. Case management services and support groups are now possible because the larger center has enough space for individual consultations and community programs to operate simultaneously. In the first year following its expansion, OLGC supported more than 3,100 unduplicated clients and provided over 105,000 meals.
Pandemic Response Support
The Hispanic community was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many held jobs in the food and hospitality industries. OLGC experienced increased need for food and other basic supports among their clients, 66% of whom have an annual income of less than $12,500. In response, the Foundation provided a total of $425,000 in support during 2020-2021 to increase case management, direct client support and food access provided through OLGC.
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