Glick passing the reins of Catholic Charities
Traci Kennedy began as executive director of Charities Wednesday
After 14 years at Catholic Charities, including the past six as executive director, the retiring Wendy Glick can sum up her advice for new Executive Director Traci Kennedy in five simple, yet powerful, words: “Let go and let God.”
“Every time I felt like as a leader it was my responsibility to manage a problem or tackle a big issue, if I did it all by myself, it never had a good outcome,” Glick said. “But if I could ‘let go and let God,’ then things always worked out.”
Glick handed over the leadership reins to Kennedy Wednesday, Feb. 1. Catholic Charities is a faith-based community impact organization that serves 15,000 people a year within the 25 counties that comprise the Diocese of Wichita,. Glick will support Kennedy during a 60-day transition period.
Glick pleased with successor
Glick said she is pleased that she handed over a strong organization to Kennedy.
“The culture is better than it was six years ago – it is more collaborative,” she said. “We have been very intentional about creating opportunities for staff to come together more regularly, giving them opportunities to develop relationships which make it easier to pick up the phone and work together.”
Those relationships have played a key role in helping Catholic Charities’ 14 ministries work together to serve clients who are facing more barriers than in the past.
“The biggest change that I’ve seen in my years with Catholic Charities is the complexity of client needs,” Glick said, explaining that it used to be a client might need food for a short time because they were temporarily out of work, or they needed shelter for a few weeks due to homelessness or abuse.
“Now, when clients present themselves, the complexity of their needs and the number of barriers they face means we need to invest more time, more staff energy and more ministry resources.”
Client needs increasing
It is not unusual for a one client to need safe shelter at Harbor House or St. Anthony Family Shelter, food from Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, mental health services from Cana Counseling to process trauma, and assistance to find employment and sustainable housing.
The multiple barriers clients face often mean that not all client stories have a happy ending, Glick said. She remembers one such story involving a Harbor House client.
The survivor and her six children had sought safety from her abuser at Harbor House on several occasions. When she was strong enough to leave her abuser for good, she made arrangements with her family to help move belongings out of the house she had shared with the abuser. A surveillance device on the house alerted the abuser that she was there. When he showed up to confront her, he shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.
“We did everything right for her, everything we could do to help her succeed,” Glick recalled. “She was strong when she moved out, yet her story still ended badly. It was hard on the Harbor House staff who were so invested in her recovery from domestic violence.”
Glick’s takeaway from that incident: “Not all outcomes are pretty, but we have to keep trying, we have to keep coming to work everyday to help those who need us. We’d love for every story to have a happy ending, but often it is in the unsuccessful metric that we find the inspiration to continue our work.”
Glick said she found inspiration in the life and work of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
“When I learned that Mother Teresa doubted herself, that resonated with me and kept me going,” Glick said. “If someone as saintly as Mother Teresa of Calcutta doubted her own abilities, we all have a little room for doubt.”
God’s hand evident
Glick also clearly saw God’s hand at work throughout her time with Catholic Charities, none so clearly as the project to establish a new campus for Adult Day Services.
“God most certainly calls staff to work for Catholic Charities, and he calls donors to respond generously,” she said. “Being a witness to the tremendous generosity of our donors is a memory I will forever carry in my heart.”
She will carry memories into retirement while leaving calendars and clocks behind.
“I feel so good about the work I’ve done and where Catholic Charities is now,” Glick said.
“There is strong leadership in place, the organization is on solid financial footing, and there is a new executive director in place who I have the utmost confidence in to continue the important work of Catholic Charities.”