Cary church creates program to provide direct help to immigrants

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Cary church is trying to make it easier for local immigrants to get help not only during the pandemic but long after.

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church has created a new position in the church, a bilingual advisor.

It will allow the church to serve the Spanish-speaking population directly without having to send them somewhere else for help.

Often when those in need seek help from the church, they are given a list of places to go.

But when those people don't speak English, that's often a dead end. That's why the church has hired a Spanish-speaking advisor to serve those people.

"I spent three years working in very underprivileged areas especially with heavily Hispanic populations," Father Michael Burbeck told ABC11.

Burbeck said when he arrived in Cary at St. Michael's, he realized many of those same kinds of people were in Cary and also in need.

So he started the SHARES program which stands for serving hope, assistance, resources and emergency support.

"I pretty quickly wanted to try and turn and use our resources to try and meet those needs here in our own parish, in our own town," Father Burbeck said adding that the church hired Joel Carreras to serve immigrants as case manager.

Now he counsels those in need directly at the church instead of referring them to other agencies to find help with housing, food, transportation, child welfare and other essential services.

One of those clients is Maria Juarez, who said through an interpreter, "It's great that there's this position of a case manager now hear in Cary so that families don't have to spend their gas money going towards Raleigh for assistance."

Because when you're a single mother of five children every dollar counts.

One of the services people like Juarez are referred to is the food pantry.

Maty Ferrer, an outreach advisor for the Catholic Charities' Centro para Familias Hispanas, said this about the program, "That's an amazing effort from the church to be doing this, to offer this service to the community where families are. They're meeting them where they are."

That's especially important when someone speaks little English because navigating services, especially government services, can be very intimidating.

Of course all, of this is happening under the lens of immigration politics, a very hot topic right now.

But parishioners put that aside according to Father Burbeck.

"People see the difference between the person in front of them who's in need, and the abstract political questions around immigration," said Burbeck.

And for that, people like Maria Juarez and her children are grateful.

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