Drought causing more to seek assistance

FRESNO, Calif.

Catholic Charities is trying to plan ahead. The group is already seeing more need from the community, and some of it is coming from higher socio-economic groups than usual.

With the drought's impact on the economy some donors are already eliminated plans to help.

"It's going to be tough this next year, because resources are going to be even tighter for us," said Kelly Lilles. "And we're going to have an influx of people coming in and we're going to have to figure out how to serve them."

Lilles says Catholic Charities is anticipating a huge increase in need at the same time resources are drying up. "We've been told actually by some of our major donors don't count on us because we're facing our own situations," she said.

This week, Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa wrote a letter to the president stressing the need for legislation to help farmers with better water flows.

Monsignor Raymond Drieling says Bishop Ochoa felt the need to make this public plea since the valley's one million Catholics are right in the heart of the drought's initial impact zone.

Drieling says the next step is diocese conservation. "The bishop can write a nice letter to the president, but if we're not modeling it, if we're not living it in our local situation it them becomes an empty voice," he said. It's not known yet what conservation efforts will be taken up by the church.

The rise in help provided by Catholic Charities since 2012 is great. That year, 87,000 received assistance. In 2013, 137,000 people turned to the organization for assistance. And Lilles is projecting about 200,000 people will seek help in 2014.

The diocese is urging Capitol Hill to keep the moral and religious tone in the drought discussions. And Catholic Charities says if you can help, the best way is to donate money since they purchase many of their items in bulk.

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