Melissa Lee-Eckes

Catholic Charities ND Director of Counseling Melissa Lee-Eckes says the organization is here to help those in need today and tomorrow. Photo from Catholic Charities ND.

FARGO – When a person doesn’t know where to turn, Catholic Charities North Dakota is there.

Available to anyone of any faith, Catholic Charities ND offers counseling services and much more to individuals, couples and families struggling through difficult times, including the current farm and ranch crisis.

The charitable organization cordially invites everyone to meetings in January to discuss the most challenging aspects facing rural communities today.

Stress Management for Farmers, Ranchers and Rural Communities will be held on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the NDSU Research Center in Langdon, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Church in Wahpeton, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. at Holy Family Church in Grand Forks and Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. at St. Catherine’s Parish Hall in Valley City. More dates and locations may be added later if requested.

These free informational presentations are open to anyone interested in discussing ways to support yourself, neighbors and communities affected by rural stress. If you are interested in bringing a presentation to your community please reach out to Catholic Charities ND Director of Counseling Melissa Lee-Eckes, MSW, LCSW, at (701) 235-4457 to learn more!

Lee-Eckes says their message is hope and a way forward.

“Basically the gist of the presentation that we’re providing for the community is to talk about resources, identify supports and ways to recognize when people are struggling, and then just to provide some fellowship,” said Lee-Eckes. “Communities can also reach out to us.”

These meetings and counseling services are not limited to Catholics, she said. They turn no one away that asks for help.

“We help everybody regardless of their faith or religion,” she said, adding that not all of their employees are Catholic. “It’s always been that way. I think we’re just doing a better job of advertising the services that we provide and making sure that people understand we truly do provide services to everybody.”

Services provided

Catholic Charities North Dakota offers the following services.

- Adoption services including facilitating adoptions of children into loving, stable and nurturing families. AASK (Adults Adopting Special Kids) services for children in foster care are partnered with PATH ND, a Nexus Family Member. To learn more, visit

- Counseling services to help individuals and families become happier and healthier through therapy, couples counseling and family therapy. For more information, email

- Pregnancy services including helping expectant parents by offering licensed social workers to assist families through the Pregnancy, Parenting & Adoption Services program. Email for more information.

- Guardianship services to respond to the needs of vulnerable adults. This program provides guardianship to almost 500 individuals with intellectual disabilities across North Dakota by working with the state and other service providers and is a United Way Community Partner. Email to learn more.

- Disaster response providing food, shelter and other items, as well as counseling and support in conjunction with North Dakota’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and Catholic Charities USA’s Disaster Operations. More than $1 million was provided through CCUSA to the Minot community after the Souris River flood. Killdeer and other local communities have also each received $10,000 to help recover from damage after hail and windstorms, tornadoes or flooding.

“We apply for grants and then help communities where there’s a gap, whether they weren’t able to get assistance through insurance to pay for things, or FEMA didn’t cover things,” Lee-Eckes said. “It’s kind of a way to fill the gap for where they weren’t able to get funding or resources to help with wherever there was a deficit related to flooding, or a tornado, or the farm crisis.”

Farmers often find it easier to change the tire on a tractor or assist a cow with calving, than to ask for help with a stressful family situation.

Lee-Eckes says that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

“No one has to struggle or suffer alone,” she said. “We’re all in this together and help is only a phone call away.”

For an immediate crisis in North Dakota or Clay County, Minn., call 211 for information about health and human services. This number provides confidential listening and support in addition to information and referrals.

For questions or situations that are not emergencies, Catholic Charities ND answers questions at their 701-235-4457 number during regular business hours.

How to help

For those who are interested, Lee-Eckes had several ideas on ways citizens can help Catholic Charities ND. She encourages people to spread the word about the types of services that are provided for anyone. She also asks people to pray for those who are struggling.

Contributions of $50, $100 or $1,000 can go a long way toward helping Catholic Charities ND offer reduced-cost therapy and other services. Counseling is provided on a sliding fee scale, Lee-Eckes said, and in addition, the organization understands that farms and ranches may be asset-rich but not have funds set aside for counseling. In some cases, it may be appropriate to waive fees, and this is where donations are especially needed.

Catholic Charities ND offers counseling appointments in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Wahpeton, Valley City, Langdon, Dickinson and New England. They’ve set up satellite offices to help those who need someone to help them but perhaps can’t drive any distance.

“We understand and recognize that struggling is hard enough,” she said. “Asking for help and reaching out is hard, and then having the burden of feeling like you’re going to be financially burdened by trying to help yourself, just really holds people back. We want to help with reducing that burden as much as possible.”

Visit or call 701-235-4457 to learn more about services available to help in times of need; the Stress Management for Farmers, Ranchers and Rural Communities program, or to provide needed donations.

“We don’t refuse service for anybody’s inability to pay and we provide services based on the social teachings of the Catholic Church,” Lee-Eckes said. “In all of our programs, we take a very client-centered approach.

“You look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – people need food, shelter, clothing, those basics. To be able to say that we can include counseling in there for them, I think is a great relief.”

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