The Catholic Woman's League is a venerable organization whose members have been doing charitable work in Salt Lake City for 70 years.
When the league holds its spring benefit, come Feb 4., it will be a luncheon - as it has always been. "For the first 20 years they held it in one of the member's homes - in one of those old mansions. Now we always use a hotel," says Kathy Scott, co-chairwoman of this year's event in the Little America.The Catholic Woman's League has 400 members. By tradition, Scott explains, the league donates to a philanthropy that's already organized in the community. Each year the money goes someplace different.
For example, last year Native Americans benefited. Before that it was St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen (after the kitchen burned) and a special fund to pay medical bills so that handicapped children can be more easily adopted.
The league's scrapbooks chronicle the history of a community's need and caring. The scrapbooks are meticulously kept, says Scott, and have become a valuable history not only of the Catholic Church but of charitable work in Salt Lake City.
The league's current historian, Chris Decker, says St. Joseph's Villa, the Holy Cross School of Nursing and the Veterans Administration Hospital were favorite charities over the years. "Then there were some special projects. They give a flavor of the times. For example, in 1953 we supported Hungarian refugees. And right after World War I we gave to something called `The European Relief Fund.' "
During the first 10 years of the league's existence, Decker says, its donations went to Holy Cross Hospital, the Sarah Daft Home (for elderly women), and to that now outmoded institution, St. Ann's Orphanage.
The scrapbooks show how time and technology and social advances have changed the way we deal with human need. Yet the needs overall haven't changed. This year the Catholic women will give to exactly the same causes they did 70 years ago, to medicine and to homeless women and children.
The league's 1989 projects are the Holy Cross Mammography Van and Marillac House - a haven for abused or homeless mothers and children.
- MARILLAC HOUSE is a regular-looking house on a regular-looking street in downtown Salt Lake City. Inside as many as 18 people are living: women and their children. These are women whose spouses have died, disappeared, divorced or abused them. They don't have homes. They don't have jobs. They have children, but no way to raise them.
Mona Knapp is director of the Marillac House. Working there she has learned "There is no woman in our society of whom you could say, `She will never need a shelter like this.' Almost every woman who comes here feels like it's all her fault she ended up here. But it's just circumstances.
"Homelessness cuts across all segments of society. A measure of how society is succeeding is how well it cares for its homeless."
Knapp says whatever money the Catholic Woman's League raises this year will go for a special baby fund. "Sometimes women come to us right from the hospital, after having a baby. We want to have blankets, diapers and formula for them while they are here and some to send with them when they leave.
"And occasionally the baby needs medicine or a special formula. We decided to set up this fund so that the needs of babies would always come first. So we wouldn't have to squeeze an extra can of soy formula out of the budget."
Marillac House began in 1983, under the auspices of Catholic Community Services. It accepts women of all religions. Families can stay for up to 30 days (more if the mother has a job or apartment pending), during which time they do all the cooking and household chores. The staff not only gives shelter but helps women assess their job skills and start working toward self-sufficiency.
- IN 1987, HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL began sending a van to rural towns throughout the Mountain West. Inside the mobile medical office, a radiologic technologist screens women for breast cancer by taking a mammogram (or film of the breast tissue) to be interpreted by a radiologist back at the hospital. The results are forwarded to the woman's doctor.
The van parks in grocery store parking lots, or at a mining or construction camp. As many as 50 women a day can take advantage of the low-cost screening.
The Catholic Woman's League donation will mean that women who can't afford to pay will get a free cancer screening.