Jag Daswatta, regional manager for Ashley HomeStores in Oregon, left, poses with a donation check to Catholic Community Services with board members and CEO Josh Graves, second from right. (Courtesy/Catholic Community Services)

Each year, Catholic Community Services workers help thousands of Salem families get aid with housing, health care and other basic needs.

Josh Graves, the nonprofit’s CEO, said often, a relatively small amount of cash can make a huge difference to a family. When they’re able to pay a rental deposit or cover an overdue bill to improve a family’s credit score, that “can have an incredible impact on getting them into safe, affordable, stable housing.”

The organization will now be able to help more families with those expenses thanks to a recent $100,000 donation from Ashley HomeStores, a Wisconsin-based furniture company with more than 1,000 U.S. stores, including one in southeast Salem.

The donation was one of several the company made following an ownership change at its Salem store, said Jag Daswatta, Ashley’s regional manager for Oregon.

The store was formerly privately owned, but Ashley acquired it in November 2021.

“Whenever we go to a community we want to be part of the community,” Daswatta said.

The company president helped select several family- and student-focused organizations in Salem to receive $100,000 donations each.

They also selected Family Building Blocks, which operates a relief nursery and provides parenting classes and support for local families, as well as child abuse prevention organization Liberty House.

The Salem-Keizer School District’s Career Technical Education Center will be the final recipient of a $100,000 donation, though Daswatta and district spokeswoman Emily Hicks said details are still being worked out. The center offers 10 hands-on career-focused programs to high school juniors and seniors.

Once given, that donation may be used to fund workforce development programs, industry equipment, scholarships and alumni outreach, Hicks said.

Daswatta said the company will continue to look for Salem organizations to support, and often contributes furniture and labor to aid in nonprofit projects.

Recently, that included donating and assembling bunk beds and mattresses for a Eugene nonprofit that helps children who don’t have a bed.

“I physically went there and we built these 50 bunk beds,” Daswatta said.

Graves said the funds are especially needed now for the families Catholic Community Services works with.

“The pandemic and the housing crisis and now inflation are just having a hard impact on families, and a lot of times there’s some gaps that aren’t funded by the traditional health care systems and support systems and mental health systems,” he said.

The donation was unrestricted, meaning the nonprofit can use it as they see fit. Graves said they plan to disburse it all to families, chiefly through the neighborhood-based Fostering Hope Initiative, which is targeted on Salem’s lowest-income neighborhoods.

Some may be distributed to families at the St. Joseph shelter in Mt. Angel as well, Graves said.

“This is all going to go to filling in gaps for families with children,” he said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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