"To love and serve our neighbors as ourselves."

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:33).”

This is the philosophy of Altoona Catholic Charities Case Manager Michelle Johnston. She is a firm believer that God provides for all of His children, even during their toughest situations.  Her faith has fueled the passion for her work.

“I strive to always remember my blessings and hope that I can offer professional support to the people of Blair County,” said Johnston.

Before coming to Catholic Charities, Johnston graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Penn State. She then held positions as a Therapeutic Staff Support, Delinquency Prevention Counselor, and Truancy Court Counselor. These positions gave her valuable experience and knowledge that she found to be very useful as a case manager.

“I learned ways to identify a crisis and appropriate ways to deescalate a crisis as well,” she said.

Johnston is currently working towards her fifth year as case manager in the Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program. In this position, Johnston assists the people of Blair County by coordinating services that help meet people’s basic needs and necessities. Catholic Charities has programs that help lower heating costs as well as ones that provide food and clothing. The requests that require a case manager’s support are those that are related to emergency situations. These emergencies include: eviction, termination, and heating fuel deliveries.

Case managers encourage clients to keep in close contact, even after they’ve provided their assistance. They follow up with client families after 90 days to make sure that their assistance has provided the necessary stability after the emergency situation. Case managers can also offer guidance with other programs: such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); as well as local food banks.

“It gives people hope to know that there is a place to call when they are in trouble,” said Johnston. “They know that we are rooting for them to get back on their feet.”

When asked about the most meaningful part of being a case manager, Johnston says it is the knowledge of the reality that Catholic Charities is the charity arm of the church. Every person that walks through their door is in need of something, and Johnston finds great joy in being able to provide for them.

“You grow as a person daily and I have learned that God is a deep-rooted source of comfort and support during the troubled times for the majority of the individuals and families we serve,” she said.

The case manager position at Catholic Charities is one that is ever-changing. As the needs of the community change, so does the job of the case manager. Case managers like Johnston are always looking for new ways to grow in order to help more people and create stable environments.

“This growth happens with the support of donations, and it is our commitment to making each one as a means to serve,” said Johnston.

As with all of the diocesan Catholic Charities locations, the Altoona office has always been dedicated to not only stabilizing a person’s physical home, but also the home within their client. Their goal is to help a person who is in need while also trying to preserve their dignity and confidence. Michelle Johnston wants people to know that Catholic Charities will always offer a helping hand.

“I am truly blessed and feel privileged that God thought of me and gave me this wonderful position knowing we could all work together to meet the needs of the community,” she said.

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