Diocesan News

Auburn, Hastings CSS Locations Expand

(SNR) - Through prayer, the intercession of the saints and the generosity of benefactors, Catholic Social Services (CSS) has expanded its operations into new buildings in both Hastings and Auburn.

In Hastings, CSS recently acquired the building next to its Saint Joseph Gift & Thrift store. Social services staff members have already moved into the first floor. Finishing touches are being done upstairs for the clinical services, which will have its own private entrance.

The new campus has been named the Saint John Vianney Center in gratitude for the 18th century French priest for his intercession in making the project come to fruition.

"We started praying to Saint John Vianney, and it all came together," said Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services. "The property came up for sale. The money came in."

The building has been transformed into a warm, welcoming place for struggling individuals and families to come for assistance.

"The design of the building allowed us to put things in their proper place," said Tom Schik, director of social services.

Near the reception area is the most important part of the building: a chapel lovingly outfitted by carpenter Harry Knight, which features two beautiful stained glass windows.

There, the staff gathers for Mass every Thursday morning and rosaries on the other mornings. They pray for their clients, the staff, their volunteers and the many benefactors who help keep this important apostolate running.

Clients also use the chapel, stopping in for solace, emotional and spiritual fortitude, or just to offer prayers of thanksgiving.

The first floor also houses a conference room and offices, plus an expanded food pantry.

The new pantry is designed for flexibility. It also features the walk-in refrigerator inherited from the building’s previous owners. This large cooler will allow the Hastings operation to offer more fruit, vegetables and meat to clients.

Having all services together in close proximity is very convenient for clients.

"If somebody walks in for a clothing voucher, they don’t have to get in their cars and drive," Father Kubat noted. "It’s very convenient."

It also saves CSS the burden of paying rent for three different buildings. With the purchase of the new building, CSS will have more money to serve the needy families.

Meanwhile in Auburn, crews are putting a new roof and a new façade on the former Orscheln Farm & Home store, which was donated to CSS recently.

"Everything we have in Lincoln and Hastings, we’ll have in Auburn," Father Kubat declared.

The old farm and home building is directly next door to Auburn’s CSS thrift store, Saint Francis Gift & Thrift. This facility was donated to CSS by longtime Auburn residents Marge and the late Frank Engles, and their son, Bob Engles.

The Engles family also purchased the lot immediately behind CSS, which is used for parking semi trailers.

Curt Krueger, director of social services/east, estimated the extra floor space to add 125-150% to the operation.

"We’ll add floor space to the store and warehousing," he said. "We are beyond excited."

The social services and clinical services staff will also have better spaces for client meetings. Currently, the social services staff uses a desk portioned off from the rest of the thrift store. Clinical services are offered in a CCD classroom in the Saint Joseph parish hall.

Mr. Kruger also noted that Auburn will finally have a proper chapel, just like the Hastings and Lincoln CSS campuses. And, he has plans for a regular food pantry when the farm and home building’s renovation is completed later this year.

"We have a mobile pantry we take down there every few months," he said, "But we’ll be able to have a permanent pantry for sure."

Both Mr. Krueger and Mr. Schik have seen a significant increase in the number of people who avail themselves to CSS for food, clothing, help with rent and utilities and more.

"I think it has to do with the economy and some major employers that went out of business here in Hastings," Mr. Schik said. "That left us with close to 1,000 jobs lost. We’re just now slowly beginning to replace those jobs."

Lack of employment was also something that Mr. Krueger cited.

"There is not a lot of manufacturing anymore," he said. "There’s lots of poverty in southeast Nebraska."

Because the need continues to grow, it’s important for CSS to continue to grow in the "hubs" of Auburn, Hastings and, sometime soon, Imperial, where CSS is currently operating out of Saint Patrick Parish’s old hall.

"Our plan is to eventually buy a building out there and do the same thing," said Father Kubat.

As the need grows in Southern Nebraska, CSS needs all Catholics to find a way to help. Donations, including cash and material goods, are always welcomed, as well as numerous volunteers to help run the thrift stores, food pantries and more.

To volunteer in Hastings, call Tom Schik at 402-463-1119. In Aurora, call Lana Fulton at 402-274-4818. Lincoln-area volunteers can contact Curt Krueger at 402-489-1834.

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