Bishop Griffin Center to address communitys needs

Messenger photos by Dianne Garrett

Pictured in the at the Bishop Griffin Service Center are Richard Dick, Lisa Reis and Sarah Reis. Sara mobilized her junior class and student council members at Bishop Hartley High School to donate clothing. The students collected clothing, and spent a day at the center sorting and categorizing not only their donations, but others that had been dropped off. Kelly Dawes, owner of College Traditions, and the mother of one of the students, donated stacks of Ohio State University t-shirts.

Catholic Social Services hosted an open house Nov. 14 at the new Bishop Griffin Service Center located at Christ The King Church. The group provides senior support services, job readiness for the Hispanic population, as well as a food pantry and free clothing store. Pictured are board members and clergy, from left, Angela Keener, Lisa Reis, Director Don Wisler, Marge Telerski, Kim Conley, Bishop James Griffin, Father Michael Lumpe and Father Steve Seever.

This is the time of year when more acts of kindness are extended to those in need, or who have difficulty making ends meet through winter and holiday months.

For many, including recent immigrants seeking jobs and senior citizens on fixed incomes, those needs are a part of everyday life throughout the year.

Catholic Social Services, with a combined group of volunteers, hopes to alleviate some of those problems through the Bishop Griffin Services Center, located on the grounds of Christ the King Church on East Livingston Avenue.

The center is comprised of several outreach programs. According to Director Don Wisler, there is a growing number of residents in many eastside neighborhoods where the working poor just can’t make it through each month without some help.

He acknowledged a partnership with St. Vincent DePaul Center to make the venture a success. The Catholic Foundation installed new heating, air conditioning and garage doors through the Kelly Foundation Grant.

Ann Raven works in the Job Readiness Program, which provides classes for the Hispanic population to learn how to prepare for a job and finding one, as well as how to work in the American job market.

It is the only Hispanic program in the area teaching English and American culture. There are about 200 people in the program. Raven explained that they help participants find employers and overcome barriers.

Those who complete the courses receive gift certificates. Upon being employed for four months, they receive $200. Some of their employment partners are Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kroger Distribution Center in Delaware and various hotels.

Raven also said that they are trying to send people to the right places to obtain employment cards and Social Security numbers. It is their hope that one day they will be able to do all of that at Bishop Griffin Center.

"We learn something every day from our clients, and continue to build on that," said Raven.

Kim Conley is the program coordinator for Senior Supportive Services. There is also an office at 3377 W. Broad Street. This service provides case management for those 60 and older.

"We want to assist them to be able to live safe and independently in their own homes as long as possible," said Conley.

There is also transportation to medical appointments, assistance with budgeting and check writing, educating clients on Medicare and getting them signed up for all entitlements, or finding alternative housing.

Also, on the premises is a food pantry and free clothing store staffed by volunteers. Clients can come in and shop around for what they need, offering more choices and dignity than having a bag handed to them.

According to Lisa Reis, households will be given a point value based on the size of their families and need. They can then "spend" the points.

Clients will be allowed 20 items per person, and can come once a month. They also will have shoes and accessories available.

Donations of gently used clothing will always be welcome, as well as food items. The center will also be receiving food from food drives and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Reis’ teenage daughter, Sarah, mobilized her junior class and student council at Bishop Hartley High School, and in a couple of days gathered a large number of clothing items.

The students not only brought their donations, but spent a day sorting through theirs and donations from others to organize the pantry.

"My class has adopted the clothing pantry, and my friends did not just donate old clothes they no longer wanted, they brought in clothes they were still wearing and loved, including winter coats. They just wanted to share with others," offered Sarah Reis.

The effort yielded an unexpected surprise from a parent of one of the students. Kelly Dawes owns College Traditions on Lane Avenue and she donated stacks of Ohio State University t-shirts.

Lisa Reis pointed out that they still need hangers and coat racks. She would also appreciate donations of business attire to help some of the clients who are job hunting, or going through the job services program.

Located on the grounds next to the center is a community garden. The garden will offer seasonal, fresh produce to add to the items in the food pantry.

Members of the Hispanic community have been helping with planting and nurturing of the various tomatoes, tomatillas and vegetables their culture uses for cooking.

Neighbors have joined the gardening endeavor by not only helping with the garden, but using some of their own yards to grow items to donate.

"Even if it is one row of something, it is appreciated," Reis said.

Clients will be welcomed at the center by bilingual greeters. For more information regarding the food and clothing pantries, contact Lisa Reis at 239-0867 or by email at

Catholic Social Services can be contacted by calling 274-0096, or by logging on to It is a United Way member agency, nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation, and a member of Catholic Charities USA. CSS is licensed by the Ohio Department of Human Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

Residents of surrounding eastside communities, including Whitehall, are also invited to contact the above offices about services offered.

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