Salina — A crowd of nearly 200 supporters gathered Jan 29 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas.
“We feel so blessed to have you all here,” said Executive Director Michelle Martin. “We did not expect this big a crowd on a Tuesday night, but we didn’t want to turn anyone away, like our normal policy.” It was important to Martin that the celebration happen on the actual date the organization was incorporated — Jan. 29 — which is also Kansas Day. The evening served to honor the past, but the focus was the future. Three announcements were made about the future of Catholic Charities. The first involves a move … for the Manhattan office. The current location is a little difficult to find; the new office will be located at 212 S. Fourth St., Suite 120 in Manhattan. “We felt like hidden away, we weren’t doing enough in Manhattan,” she said. “We still have a lot of the core services, but what we’re doing today is different in a lot of ways than what we were doing.” The office will move April 1. Next, Martin announced a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation was received that will allow all of the Catholic Charities offices — Hays, Manhattan and Salina — to have tablets and a new app to gather client information. “We’ll have tablets in all of the offices and mobile outreach vans so we can try to gather a little more data a little more efficiently,” she said. “We can prioritize their needs based on an evidence based model so we can try to serve more people more efficiently.” Instead of serving only the immediate need, Martin said she hopes gathering more information will help Catholic Charities assess and aid with the underlying difficulty in their clients’ lives. The final announcement related to mobile outreach. Martin said Long McArthur, a car dealership in Salina, donated a new mobile outreach van to each Catholic Charities office, along with service of each vehicle. Additionally, 24/7 Travel Stores donated fuel for the vehicles. “I’m so happy Long McArthur and 24/7 share that vision of reaching out to those rural communities,” Martin said. “They care enough to join us in that mission. Because of all of them, it’s possible to reach those individuals.”
Martin said being able to provide service to additional rural communities on a weekly basis is an important aspect of Catholic Charities’ mission. “It’s very hard in those rural areas to reach services,” she said. “If you’re poor … and if you have a vehicle that will travel … and if you have gas … and if you have time off, Salina from Minneapolis can be like traveling to a foreign country. It’s important to not neglect people in those rural areas.” Bishop Jerry Vincke was among the attendees. “The reason why you’re here is because you love Catholic Charities, and because of the love they have for others,” he said in greeting to the crowd. “Love is how it grows. People love what Catholic Charities does for the community and for people.” Gathering with a supporting community is always exciting, Martin said. Yet she is quick to point to the essential service the support allows the organization to provide. “We are overwhelmed and truly humbled by all of you here,” she said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we’re here … to make a difference in people’s lives.”
She pointed to photos throughout the room of real clients served every day at Catholic Charities. “We are here to serve. I’m always reminded of that when I come into this room,” Martin said. As Catholic Charities enters its sixth decade of service, a special challenge match was announced. A donor provided $60,000, and gave Catholic Charities 60 days from its birthday to raise the money. Once raised, the $60,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the donor. “As we become more visible and accessible to more people, it comes with a cost,” Martin said. “We’re not like a business where you get more customers and you get more money. It’s the opposite. We really need your help.” She is also quick to point out the clientele served is not screened for religious affiliation. “We are here to serve anyone who asks,” Martin said. “We are not here to serve Catholics. We serve because we’re Catholic.” Donations are accepted via the website, https://ccnks.org or by mail: Catholic Charities, P.O. Box 1366, Salina, KS 67402-1366.