Charity a comfort to immigrants |

Charity a comfort to immigrants

During the last fiscal year Catholic Charities served 1,529 households in Garfield County. Catholic Charities is involved with community organizing in the Eagle River Valley through a group called La Mesa, and sponsors an educational program called “JustFaith.” This 30-week class addresses issues of charity, social justice and peacemaking from a Christian perspective. There is currently a class in Rifle and Glenwood Springs.

Catholic Charities has been working with both Latinos and Anglos since it started in Garfield County in January 2000, but it wasn’t until June 2002 that its specific programs to help immigrants were implemented. Most of its clients are from Latin America, but immigrants from other parts of the world are assisted as well.

The organization provides two programs specifically for immigrants: Immigration Services and Immigrant Community Advocacy. Emergency Financial Assistance (rent, utilities, transportation, lodging, etc.), Miles For Smiles Dental Program (low-cost dental care for children from low-income families), and Family Transitional Housing (long-term rental assistance and case management to homeless families) are available to all clients.

Immigration Services helps clients obtain citizenship, and also helps with certain types of visas. Clients may call 945-9562 for an appointment to meet with the Catholic Charities attorney. This consultation fee is $50. Additional fees are charged based on the type of services provided.

Immigrant Community Advocacy provides information, referrals and mediation assistance to immigrants. Immigrants face a wide variety of challenges in adapting to their new community. Traditional social service agencies do not provide the help needed for some of these challenges and situations. Undocumented immigrants are often not entitled to many traditional services, and Catholic charities helps to fill this void.

The organization’s caseworker helps immigrants work through third-party conflicts or misunderstandings through mediation. Clients can call 384-2060 for an appointment for this assistance, which has a fee of $10 unless the client is unable to pay because of financial hardship.

Catholic Charities is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A walk-in emergency assistance service is offered from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

Catholic Charities believes society’s social ills have root causes, and some of these causes are best addressed through changes in laws and policies which take place at the local, state and federal levels. Since the Denver office opened in 1927, Catholic Charities has been working on Colorado’s legislative issues. Two full-time attorneys work with legislators on social issues such as housing, immigrant health care or transportation issues, giving a voice to people who otherwise might never have their needs addressed.

Tom Zieman, the Catholic Charities director for the Western Slope, came to Garfield County with his family from Aviano, Italy, in January 2000. He had just retired from being a clinical social worker in the Air Force, and held a variety of different positions in three stateside assignments and four overseas assignments including Turkey, Germany, Netherlands and Italy.

“I’d just like to thank all the agencies we work with, especially Salvation Army, Advocate Safehouse Project and Lift-Up,” said Zieman.

“We especially appreciate all the support we receive from the Aspen Valley Community Foundation and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, as well as most of the local governments.”

“I have lived all over,” Zieman continued. “I can honestly say that this valley is by far the most interesting area that I have ever had the opportunity to work in. The social, economic, medical, housing, transportation and immigrant issues are very complex. I have found the residents of this area to be very generous and have a great sense of what it means to be charitable.

“However, I believe that we can do a better job at addressing the root causes of suffering in our area. Catholic Charities is proud to be a part of this community and we look forward to working with others towards this end.”


Please don’t forget to take a few minutes to nominate your favorite Humanitarian for the Garfield County Humanitarian Service Awards. Nomination forms appear in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Mail your completed form to Kate Somsel-Longmore, c/o RSVP, 1402 Blake Avenue, GWS; e-mail to; or fax to 947-8488. The deadline is 5 p.m. on Jan. 8.

Kay Vasilakis’ column, “Nonprofit Spotlight,” appears every other Monday. For news tips or inspirations, please call 984-2308 or e-mail

Established office in Garfield County in 2000

Contact number: 384-2060

Tom Zieman, director, Catholic Charities, Western Slope Office

Mission: To serve the poor and underserved through providing direct social services, and advocating on behalf of clients through social legislation and policy change, and through community organizing efforts.

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