Seton Center celebrates 50 years of service to their neighbors and a new CEO

Paul Hoffman presents Seton Center’s past successes and dreams for the future. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Seton Neighborhood Services opened its doors to the poor in the inner city on October 1, 1969 under the direction of Sister Mathilde Comstock, the Daughters of Charity and the Ladies of Charity. In 1975, the agency relocated to its current location at 23rd and Benton Blvd. and was renamed Seton Center. It continues to be the community’s anchor, serving more than 4,000 people and providing dental services to almost 2,500 patients each year.

On January 30, Seton Center honored its founders, leaders and its long-time volunteers and supporters with a Mass and 50th Anniversary dinner at the Longview Mansion in Lee’s Summit. The Leadership Mass, celebrated by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., and concelebrated by Fathers Gerald Waris and Michael Mulhern, was held at the historic Long Chapel.

In his homily, Bishop Johnston, whose mother is a Lady of Charity in Knoxville, Tenn., recalled his childhood: following his mother to meetings, and activities to help the poor so often, he quipped that he should have been an honorary Lady of Charity. He said service is a catalyst to love.

“Jesus showed us what love is on the cross. We celebrate it and receive this love at every Eucharist. It’s not just a story, at Mass it’s brought into the now!”   

Several Daughters of Charity provided the music at the Mass, including Sister Anita Sullivan, who served as cantor.

Following the Mass, those attending it drove a short way to the Longview Mansion where they joined other volunteers, clergy and religious, members of the Board of Directors and friends for a special blessing by Bishop Johnston and dinner.

Seton’s new Chief Executive Officer, Paul Hoffman, was introduced at the dinner.

He said later that he began working for Seton Center in May 2012, serving as Chief Financial; Officer and Support Services Director. Then-director, Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Loretto Marie Colwell was beginning to deal with some health issues shortly after he started. While CFO, he managed the implementation of the Center’s Neighborhood Assistance Program’s tax credits and $5 million in new Market tax credits. He also spearheaded negotiations for the Center’s Benefits programs. He worked extensively with outside companies to obtain donations of food and hygiene products for the Food Pantry to reduce its expenses.

Hoffman earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an MBA in Accounting and Labor Relations, both from the University of Kansas.He has served on the Board of Directors of the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City and formerly volunteered at Wayside Waifs. The life-long Kansas City area resident and his wife live in Shawnee, Kan.

Hoffman is one of seven children, with three brothers and three sisters. “That means I know how to get along with people!” he joked. He said he believes in putting people first.

Sister Loretto Marie retired in October 2018, but Hoffman was named CEO in September. To honor her years of loving service, Seton Center’s Support Center is being renamed Seton Colwell Support Center.

When asked what his hopes and plans for the next year at Seton Center were, he didn’t hesitate.

“In the next year, I want to find new grants, new foundations and the wealthy families controlling the foundations who enjoy giving money to worthy organizations like Seton Center!”

What are some of the ways the Center uses the grant monies?

“We have three dentists in our dental services. Grants helped us purchase state-of-the-art equipment and a video player for dental services. The video, which is in both English and Spanish, explains to adult patients the procedure, what is going to happen and its benefits, so the patient is comfortable with going ahead. Children watch a video showing how to brush their teeth, flossing, etc., to encourage good dental hygiene. We would like to expand and increase the number of patients using the dental clinic.”

He continued, “In five years, I would like Seton Center to be firmly on a stable foundation. It looks like we are going to be debt-free by the end of this year. I’d like it stay that way. There is plenty of foundation money out there that could be used to tackle things the neighborhood needs. We also are laying ground work to attract younger donors.”

He ticked off some upcoming events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seton Center, including a neighborhood party and health fair April 27, the annual ‘Swingin’ at the Stack’ dinner provided by Jack Stack BBQ and auction May 1; a disc golf tournament June 1, a Mass honoring volunteers followed by a brunch Oct. 1 and the annual Christmas Sharing Party Nov. 8. The first events, the Leadership Mass and dinner celebration were a great start to celebrating 50 years of putting people first at Seton Center.

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September 20, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph