By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ST. JOSEPH — The roots of Catholic Charities, the charitable organization of Catholics helping those in need, go back more than 130 years. Father Bernard Donnelly founded the St. Joseph Orphan Girls Home in Kansas City in 1879. The St. John Orphanage was established the following year in St. Joseph. In 1916, several Kansas City institutions serving the poor and vulnerable, and run by religious orders, merged into a diocesan system of charity. Agencies in St. Joseph remained loosely structured until the dioceses of Kansas City and St. Joseph became one in 1956. In 1958, the corporate name was changed to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Since 2003, the agency has acknowledged and honored individuals and groups whose actions, character and spirit exemplify the highest regard of service to others. The Community Spirit Awards are presented at its annual Reflections of Hope luncheon, held in St. Joseph.
The Ramada Inn ballroom was comfortably full on March 2, as about 150 people — Catholic Charities staff and board members, friends and families of the honorees, and other interested people — gathered to eat a simple soup lunch and applaud the award recipients.
Michael Halterman, CEO of Catholic Charities, highlighted several programs and focuses of the agency, including reaching and enrolling 800 eligible children in the region in Missouri’s Children’s Insurance program; providing employment support and financial education to 410 individuals affected by the recent economic downturn, and the management of more than $250,000 in emergency assistance funds used by 36 sites for needs of clients.
Halterman applauded several other agency programs and initiatives and the 2010 reaccreditation of Catholic Charities by the Council on Accreditation, “with expedited status and excellent ratings,” a distinction earned by only one-fourth of COA-accredited organizations nationwide.
Halterman added that “60 some” agencies and programs serve Northwest Missouri and, in 2010 they served more than 178,000 people. He concluded with the mention of Cycling for Change, the 100-day, 5,000-mile bike ride, undertaken by Jesuit Father Matthew Ruhl, former pastor of St. Francis Xavier-Kansas City, and many volunteer riders and helpers coast to coast. A continuation of that event will take place in Northwest Missouri in June, 2011, Halterman said.
Before the presentation of the Community Spirit Awards, Andrew Schwartz, a case manager for Catholic Charities TurnAround Program and a song writer and musician, performed a song inspired by a former inmate who spoke of her life in prison, and being “nothing but a number.” Departments of Correction assign each inmate a number to identify them, a number that often overshadows the inmate’s given name and his or her dignity. Entitled “Number,” the lyrics said in part, “Be not ashamed, take up your name. You are more than a number.”
Father Tom Ludwig, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, then introduced the Community Spirit Award winners. Jeanne Archer has served the St. Joseph community for more than 25 years, working with families in need at InterServ. InterServ, founded in 1909, is a faith-based, non-profit service organization that strives to counter the effects of poverty on children, young people, the elderly and families in St. Joseph and neighboring communities. Archer has worked to grow the organization’s food pantry and Emergency Service programs. She also has managed outreach efforts to formerly homeless residents of Juda House and St. Joseph Haven.
Jodean Ford is a longtime volunteer and community leader, working with organizations including Catholic Charities, the United Way, Faith in Action, the YWCA and St. Francis Xavier Parish in St. Joseph. She served nine years on the Catholic Charities Board of Directors, including three years as board chairman.
“As one person, I can’t do very much,” Ford said, “but as a member of a larger group or organization, well, it enables you to do a lot of things.” She began in the foster care program of Catholic Charities, and fostered 50 babies over a period of 10 years. She has served as a speaker for several agencies, including Catholic Charities, and as director of the RCIA team at St. Francis Xavier, where she has been a parishioner for more than 30 years.
Ford is soon to be officially retired and looks forward to “reading a book just for the fun of it,” but will probably stay involved with her parish. “Anytime you can be involved with your parish, it’s a giving back for all it’s given you,” she said.
Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation is a non-profit organization that offers free, confidential business coaching to any person who wants to create or expand a business in Andrew, Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties. In 2010, the organization served 110 clients and helped 11 new businesses to open. Its board supported the creation of 55 new jobs and helped generate $3,723,892 in new sales in the 6-county region. About a dozen volunteers were present to accept the award and promote the work of the organization.
The award recipients are “People helping everyday people every day,” said Father Ludwig.
For more information about Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, visit their Web site, www.catholiccharities-kcsj.org.