A Message from Helen Burland, Executive Director

Motivated by Faith and Committed to this Incredible Community

March 26, 2020

Dear Friends of Saint Catherine Center and Saint Catherine Academy,

So many things have changed and the people we love and serve are being affected. I am writing to you today to ask for your support so we can continue to respond without jeopardizing our mission.

“Stay home and be safe.”
Over the past two months, this all-too-familiar mantra has resonated with all of us. The message has provided guidance and reassurance to those workers deemed “non-essential;” to those who had responsibilities requiring them to become caretakers overnight; to those whose jobs have been relocated from office to dining room table.

But “stay home and be safe” has a different meaning to the children and young adults of Saint Catherine Center and Academy. It means a total disruption to the daily routine that is central to their navigation of our complex world. It means separation from the peers with whom fragile and important relationships have been forged. It means that contact with valued staff has shifted from hands-on support to distanced electronic interaction using unfamiliar technology. It means suspension of our vocational programs. It means unprecedented burdens and challenges for family support systems.

So many things have changed and we have changed the way we respond to our community’s need. Your partnership with us is essential to our success.

Home is school, too.
Our students have had to adjust their world view from “home is home” and “school is school” to home is school, too. This transition has been very difficult for most of our students, who have to work hard at learning a skill and depend heavily on environmental clues to be successful. Instruction that was hands-on and individualized is now remote and very dependent on a family member to support, interpret, and motivate. But we have quickly made adaptations. Our carefully crafted, intentionally planned programs look and feel very different right now. Staff have become ‘Zoom’ experts! Our music classes via Zoom have become the highlights of the week. Each week we introduce a new opportunity to interact, to instruct, to care.

Our work at Saint Catherine Center is meaningful.
This was assumed before, but rarely assessed. Now, it has become central to our daily thinking. Each day we ask ourselves, how does this activity or conversation provide support to our students or young adults? Will this help to slow the regression of hard learned skills or the return to negative behaviors that were extinguished long ago? It is meaningful to provide reading support so that when school comes back in session, readiness to learn will provide the re-launch to comprehension and sight word skills.

Our daily online group meetings in the Adult Program are meaningful so that when we are back at the Center, all will remember how to take turns and wait for their friends. Modeling how to set the table at home, unload the dishwasher, or fold the laundry is meaningful so that these skills will remain fresh in each young adult’s mind. It is meaningful to sing together, even when we are apart, so that we celebrate the joy in our valued relationships now and in the future.

We are a community who cares deeply about one another.
Many families have shared how the daily interaction with each young adult is important. It is a chance for Jessie to talk about her weekend; for Patrick to share his joke of the day; for Tyler to see his favorite staff and wave; for Philip to get an answer to his question, “Where is everyone?” Through these interactions, our families are reminded that we are a community who cares deeply about one another and that we are working tirelessly to maintain that community during these difficult times. Our community of supporters continue to validate the meaning of our work through their words of encouragement and their contributions.

Our needs are the same as they have always been, but our ability to meet those needs has been significantly challenged.
These are unsettling times. We recognize that some of our donors are experiencing financial hardship, and that those who are able are being asked to support many organizations like ours.

The Center’s annual June “Joy & Gratitude” dinner, a primary source of revenue and the only fundraising event we hold, has been postponed and its rescheduling is uncertain at this time. This event has traditionally provided annual funding to close the gap between revenue and expenses. Today that gap is close to $400,000.

Nevertheless, our mission does not take a day off. Pope Francis reminds us that “Living for others is a rule of nature.
We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is… Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.”

Together we are partners in providing meaningful support to children and young adults who might otherwise be left out of the conversation.
At Saint Catherine Center we are called to serve the most vulnerable among us. Please consider the meaningful nature of our work and consider a donation today. Your support helps us deliver on that mission. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.

So many things have changed, but you have always been there for us. Please make a meaningful gift today.


Helen Burland
Executive Director

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About Helen Burland

Helen Burland, Executive Director, joined Saint Catherine Academy and Center in 2008. She is a graduate of Fairfield University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Previously she was the Town Administrator for the Town of Madison. She served 8 years on the Madison Board of Education, including three years as Vice Chairman, and served as Chair of the Board of Finance. Helen has also served on the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions Board at Fairfield University.