Catholic Charities was established in 1943 by Bishop C.H. Winkelmann and was known as Catholic Charities Bureau.
In the early years, the agency services were focused primarily on the care of children at St. Joseph’s Home, the placement of children for adoption, limited family counseling and service to families in conjunction with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
In 1951, the Catholic Charities Bureau made application for membership in the Wichita Community Chest. As a condition for its admission, the Chest required the Bureau to have its own Board of Directors. Subsequently, Catholic Charities’ first board was formed in the fall of the same year. In December 1951, Catholic Charities Bureau was officially incorporated and received its State Charter as a non-profit corporation.
Catholic Charities Bureau was recommended for membership in the Wichita Community Chest in 1952. That year’s allocation was $5,895. In 1960, the agency received $43,704 from the United Fund of Wichita and Sedgwick County. In 1954, the name of the agency was changed from Catholic Charities Bureau to Catholic Social Service, Inc.
In 1975, the Downtown Center for Older Adults was opened at 437 N. Topeka. There were 18 clients when it opened. All were elderly. In 1977, a second location opened at 1205 N. Indiana. This facility was called the Claver Community Center and was home to 26 clients. The program grew over the years and eventually took over the 1209 N. Indiana building.
Catholic Charities Mount St. Mary’s Learning Lab was started in 1980 to help the Indochinese refugee population with English as a second language and with the adjustment to the American culture. In 1985, the program diversified with the addition of migrant education, GED and citizenship courses. Computers were added for technology literacy.
In 1981, Catholic Charities adopted the Foster Grandparent Program, designed to match special needs children with low-income seniors. Since coming under the Catholic Charities umbrella, the program’s volunteers have donated more than several hundred thousand hours to the community.
To better meet the needs of the community, the Adult Day Services expanded in 1987 to welcome clients with physical disabilities and those living with Alzheimer’s.
Catholic Charities Anthony Family Shelter, a program for homeless families, opened in 1988 in response to community need. In the 1980s the Diocese observed a growing number of families needing shelter and homeless services. The family was beginning to replace the homeless stereotype of an older, single man.
1989 saw the inception of another Catholic Charities Program – Harvest House. The program is designed to keep retired members of the Diocese of Wichita parishes active in the community and church. In the beginning, just a small group of people belonged to a Harvest House Center. Today, the program has more than 1700 members with 28 sites throughout the Diocese.
Sister Therese Wette began St. Dismas Missioners in 1991. This prison ministry provided prisoners with mass and spiritual support through priests and volunteers. The program has grown significantly through the years.
Clients with mental and developmental disabilities began coming to Adult Day Services in 1991. In 1996 a program specifically designed to meet their needs was developed.
In 1992, Catholic Charities opened its second shelter, Harbor House, which serves women and children who are victims of domestic violence. This shelter was opened at the request of the United Way of the Plains which recognized an increase in the number of women and children needing a safe confidential shelter and appropriate support services.
The same year, Catholic Charities Counseling Services moved from the agency's main building at 437 N. Topeka to an office building at 425 N. Topeka where the program still resides.
In 1996, the agency changed its name once again. To better align itself with its national governing organization, the agency name was changed from Catholic Social Service, Inc. to Catholic Charities, Inc.
When special needs adoption process was privatized in 1996, Catholic Charities took on another role in the community as a provider for placing special needs children in permanent adoptive homes. During the course of our contract (1996-1999) with Lutheran Social Services, the program staff facilitated the placement of nearly 50 children.
That same year, Catholic Charities also earned Accreditation by the Council on Accreditation of services for Families and Children, Inc.
In 1997, Adult Day Services began offering a program for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness.
In 1998, Catholic Charities Adult Day Services moved from its long-time home at 1209 N. Indiana to a larger, more versatile facility at 5290 West Central. The new location provided the program much needed space, allowed for the expansion of client services and enabled the program to serve more people in need. During the same period, the program also began working with active seniors and welcomed more than 20 new clients from the Via Christi Day Program which closed in 1998.
In the summer of 1998, Catholic Charities started its first official volunteer program. An Ameri-Corps VISTA volunteer donated a year of time and talents to help the agency establish a program designed to provide people with positive, rewarding volunteer experiences and, at the same time, educate them about the social issues plaguing our community. In less than a year, the program was in place and actively recruiting others to help the agency fulfill its mission of reaching out to those in need.
To better meet the growing need for adult education opportunities, Catholic Charities opened a second education program in 1999- Midtown Learning Center. Housed in the Midtown Community Resource Center, the program offers English as a Second Language, GED and citizenship exam preparation, and basic literacy. The program later became known as St. Dismas Volunteers.
In December 1999, Catholic Charities added another program to its offering – Hispanic Social Services. Working with the Diocese of Wichita, Catholic Charities reached out further into the Hispanic community to help connect individuals and families with resources already available to them. By breaking down the language and culture barriers, Hispanic Social Services has been able to effectively serve the growing Hispanic community and facilitate the delivery of services to them.
The Interpreter Services Program started in 2001 providing trained, qualified interpreters to assist businesses and organizations on site.
In addition, by 2001 the Midtown Learning Center and Mount St. Mary’s Learning Lab had merged and became known as the Adult Education Center. During the summer of 2003, this day and evening program for adults learning English as a Second Language moved to 437 N Topeka.
On October 12, 2003, Catholic Charities celebrated the 60-year history of servicing those in need in our community. Approximately 200 people gathered in St. Mary's Cathedral as Bishop Olmsted lead the celebration.
During 2003, Catholic Charities set out to begin a capital campaign to build two new shelters, Anthony Family Shelter and Harbor House. The campaign was announced publicly in June 2004.
With on-going evaluation, 2004 brought many changes for Catholic Charities. After an extensive program evaluation process, Catholic Charities moved two ministry programs under the direction of the Diocese of Wichita. These programs are Harvest House, parish based program for retired persons, and St. Dismas Volunteers, a prison ministry.
During the summer, a review of the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) process was completed and the formal accreditation review was preformed by a team leader and peer reviewers from the Council on Accreditation (COA).
In August, Adoption Services was restructured, eliminating two contract positions. In December, Catholic Charities also closed the Adult Ecucation Center which offered English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to immigrants. Students were referred to other community resources. It is because of other more affordable programs that these services were discontinued by Catholic Charities.
As 2004 came to end, Emergency Services restructured the pantry hours to be open each day and refocused assistance on food and utilities only, no longer providing rent, prescription and transportation assistance.
In 2005, Catholic Charities completed an audit by its accrediting agency and received full accreditation by the Council on Accreditation (COA).
During 2005, the building of a new Harbor House started in April and completed in December. On April 27, supporters, volunteers and donors gathered at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s) to hold a ceremonial ground breaking with the planting of hydrangea in honor of women and children who seek help at Harbor House. By January 2006, women and children staying in the shelter moved into the new facility especially designed to meet their needs. With an 80 percent capacity increase and ADA compliant facilities, the facility became the largest domestic violence shelter in the state of Kansas. Catholic Charities Harbor House is able to help women with or without children and outreach services make it possible to help hundreds of more women who do not need shelter, but do need help in the courts, with SRS assistance, or through counseling or support groups. During the first year the shelter opened, the number of children in shelter with their increased 80 percent.
In June 2006, Anthony Family Shelter moved to the former Harbor House facility in preparation for the building of a new St. Anthony Family Shelter. Following a groundbreaking ceremony on June 22, demolition of the former Anthony Family Shelter was completed by early autumn; and, by December, the foundation of the new shelter was complete. During this time, the name of Anthony Family Shelter would change. As the new facility reflected the image of St. Anthony Parish, so would the name of the shelter as it is now called Catholic Charities St. Anthony Family Shelter.
Executive Director Janet Valente Pape was elected to serve as the chair of the Catholic Charities USA Board of Directors for a two-year term beginning in 2006. During the first month of Pape’s term, Catholic Charities USA announced a campaign to cut poverty in half by 2020. The national organization released a policy paper called Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good, Janet Valente Pape joined Catholic Charities USA in her role as chair of the Board of Directors to offer a briefing to the legislators in Washington, D.C. The campaign continues today and Pape has attended numerous congressional briefings to educate members of Congress and hold them accountable for issues related to the poor, including healthcare, housing, nutrition and economic security.
In addition, 2006 began with an annual fund focus for Catholic Charities. Following a fund-raising and communications audit in 2005, the agency developed a focused effort to community the annual fund need, naming the fund Stewardship in Action: Filling the Cup of Need. The focus offers the agency an opportunity to share ongoing updates on donations throughout the year. Each newsletter includes a graphic with an updated percent of dollars raised, based on the annual fund goal for that year.
Catholic Charities Emergency Services feeds more people each year. During 2006, a full-time director was hired to oversee the services, including the food pantry, unity assistance and Hispanic Social Services. During 2006, Catholic Charities received a grant from the USDA to raise awareness of Food Stamps in the Wichita area. Information and screenings were provided through the Christmas Sharing program and through the food pantry. These screenings continue to be provided through the food pantry. Participation in community fairs provided opportunities for staff to educate key audiences like the working poor, Hispanics and the elderly on the value of the Food Stamp program. With a focus on low-income homes with children or seniors, more than 50,000 households were provided with information on Food Stamps in 2007. Public Service Announcements are planned for 2008.
In September 2006, Catholic Charities was awarded a five-year Healthy Marriage Demonstration Grant by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the project is to provide marriage education and enrichment activities for low income married couples. Services include free marriage assessments, marriage enrichment, education classes, social activities, and support of skilled social workers and marriage specialists. These services are provided in collaboration with each Catholic Charities agency in Kansas to reach southwest, central, south central and northeast parts of the state.
In addition to the demonstration grant, Catholic Charities was selected by MDRC of New York as one of eight sub-awardees in the United States to participate in a four-year research-based Supporting Health Marriage demonstration program. Working in collaboration with the demonstration grant, this research started as a pilot project in 2007 in both Kansas City and Wichita. The pilot project was completed and the implementation phase began in Wichita in October 2007. In Wichita alone, more than 108 families (married couples with children) had been reached as of April 2008.
In August 2007, Catholic Charities St. Anthony Family Shelter was complete and the families moved into the shelter. The 13-room facility could now help larger families with 11 rooms for families of five or less and two rooms for families of up to seven people. In addition, the families units offered connecting doors, making it possible to serve families of more than seven members. A former warehouse was remodeled offering a half-court gym for children to play and a new playground was installed. A celebration event for donors was held Oct. 25, 2007 and the building was officially dedicated as “St. Anthony Family Shelter The Bob and Maura Geist Building.”
With less than four months in the new larger facility and eight months in a small temporary shelter, St. Anthony Family Shelter served 17 percent more people in 2007 than the previous year.
Catholic Charities received full accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA) in 2008. COA connects with human service organizations worldwide to advance service delivery results by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards. Participating organizations are assessed against best-practice standards, which are developed using a consensus model with contribution from a wide range of service providers, funders, experts, policymakers and consumers to attain excellence in the method of human services globally, making positive impact on the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Catholic Charities takes part in the rigorous accreditation process to facilitate more efficient and effective programs. Catholic Charities upholds best-practice standards to increase the efficiencies and quality of the services provided to those in need. This was the fourth accreditation in the agency’s history. The accreditation process occurs every four years with review of policies and best practice standards set by COA.
On Nov. 19, 2008, Catholic Charities, Inc. announced that they are one of eleven organizations chosen to receive up to a $1 million grant towards a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation four-year initiative focused on preventing intimate partner violence, Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (BHTR). Catholic Charities is a partner of the Wichita/Sedgwick County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition and will collaborate with coalition members including the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC), the Wichita Public School District (WPS), and Wichita State University (WSU) Department of Sociology and Center for Community Support and Research. The “Wichita Building Healthy Teen Relationships” project aims to reach 7,750 local teens through community-wide activities to educate youth about the importance of forming healthy relationships and ending intimate partner violence.
In 2009, Catholic Charities worked to engage older teens and teen influences at schools, after-school sites and through project partners and supporting organizations, such as Youth United for Positive Action (YUPA). YUPA has a 10-year history of recruiting high school student leaders; providing training in advocacy, and development of school policies and action plans. Catholic Charities Harbor House, the largest domestic violence shelter in Kansas will expand their already existing local violence prevention education program with the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancements and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA) that outreaches to school staff, parents and students in Wichita.
By the end of the five-year HHS and MDRC Marriage for Keeps Project in 2010, more than 3,000 couples had received support and services from all four Kansas Catholic Charities affiliates. This collaborative effort provided workshops to low income, married couples with at least one child under 15 years old or were expecting a child. Couples received support from experienced case workers in a one-on-one setting. For 2010, the agency provided help to 24,575 men, women and children through its broad array of programming.
In 2011, the Marriage for Keeps (MfK) program at Catholic Charities was successful in receiving the only federal grant award in Kansas for a new phase of marriage and relationship support. Over the next three years, all four Catholic Charities affiliates will continue to provide marriage preservation and relationship education to not just married couples, but also single persons interested in marriage, at multiple locations throughout the state. Help for these couples and single adults in securing employment through staff Employment Specialists will be a new feature of the MfK program over the next three years.
The Start Strong teen dating violence prevention project will continue through November 2012, with more than 8,000 middle and high-school aged students, parents, teachers and coaches in the Wichita school district equipped with effective knowledge in prevention of domestic violence in their community. A new partnership with the Wichita Children’s Home will reach out to teens living on the street who are at risk for sexual exploitation and domestic violence in Wichita each year through 2015. Catholic Charities is also a partner with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Wichita, who is a recipient of a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), to provide mentoring and support to juvenile offenders re-entry back into the community.
At the end of 2011, Catholic Charities through our Wichita and Pittsburg offices had assisted 20,534 men, women and children in need, through 211,496 episodes of program services, including bed nights at our Harbor House and St. Anthony emergency shelters. Almost 38,000 food parcels were provided to hungry families through the Food Pantry that year.