Catholic Charities in Oregon, which leads church outreach to the needy and marginalized, has assembled a new team to help make sure the multi-faceted agency endures.

Kim Randles is chief development officer and Anne Holloway is development director. Both were hired after leading the agency’s first capital campaign, raising $12.5 million in 18 months for the Clark Family Center, a new Catholic Charities administration and service center scheduled to open next spring.

Catholic Charities does everything from handling adoptions to serving victims of human trafficking, modern-day slaves in the sex trade and domestic service. In many cases, it pulls in government grants for its work, but relies on charity for a significant portion of ministries.

Randles will oversee strategic direction of Catholic Charities’ development efforts, with a focus on major gifts activities, and Holloway will direct the day-to-day operations of the department, and oversee marketing communications outreach for the organization.

“Kim and Anne are a proven development team with a combined 45 years of experience whom we are blessed to have among us at Catholic Charities,” said Dennis Keenan, executive director of Catholic Charities. “Their leadership abilities are invaluable to our mission of serving our community’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”

Since starting with Catholic Charities in February, Randles and Holloway have already helped engineer an increase in donations. This year’s dinner was the most successful in the event’s nine-year history, raising almost $600,000. In addition, the 2008/09 annual appeal to parishes of the Archdiocese of Portland generated more than $555,000, making it the second highest annual appeal amount raised in the organization’s history.

“It is very humbling to be so supported by our community, particularly during what has shaped up to be the worst recession in our country’s recent history,” says Randles. “Given that 89 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to programs and services, donors can be assured that their contributions are being used to the fullest.”
Catholic Charities is approaching a 200-percent increase in requests for emergency assistance over last year.

“The fact that donations are up this year truly is a testament to donors understanding that, while they may be feeling a financial pinch, there are people out there who are in dire straits,” says Holloway. “The generosity of our donors is making it possible for us to keep up with the need.”

Randles and Holloway served together in development positions at Jesuit High School, where Randles was vice president of development, and Holloway was director of development. While at Jesuit, they were responsible for raising more than $2.5 million annually.

While at Jesuit, Randles initiated and directed the school’s first financial aid luncheon, which is now in its sixth year and nets approximately $230,000 annually for students needing financial help. Before being hired at Jesuit, Randles served as a volunteer for the high school for more than 20 years. As a volunteer, she raised funds and lobbied the Oregon Department of Transportation to install traffic lights at Beaverton Hillsdale Highway and White Pine Lane. Randles also successfully raised $7 million for construction of Canisius Hall, a priest residence building, and DeSmet Business Center.

A native Oregonian and a resident of Raleigh Hills, Randles holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Portland State University.

Before working with Randles at Jesuit, Holloway was a religion teacher at Our Lady of Lake School in Lake Oswego and assisted the church’s endowment board. Before moving to the Portland area, Holloway began her fundraising experience while serving as family ministry director at St. William Parish in Atascadero, Calif. A native of Arkansas, she started her career in Memphis, Tenn., where she was a systems engineer for IBM. Holloway holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Catholic Charities takes direction from gospels

By Ed Langlois
Bludgeoned in the face by prison guards and bound for execution, Pascal Maboko dug a secret escape hatch through a brick prison wall. As a tool, he used only a piece of wire.

Now, less than a decade later and thanks to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Portland, the 42-year-old has gone wireless.

Brought to the U.S. and welcomed to Portland three years ago by Catholic Charities’ refugee services, Maboko keeps a busy cell phone on his hip. He answers calls for an interpreter who can help other refugees who speak French, Swahili or Kirundi, the language of his native Burundi. He fields requests as a freelance janitor, working as many as 20 hours per day to support his family.

From European refugees after World War II to Cubans in the 1960s, Vietnamese in the 1970s and Hispanics fighting poverty and oppression now, Catholic Charities has for 74 years saved those on the brink. The agency has adapted with savvy to local and world events but has hewn to its mission.

“We take our directions from the Gospels,” says Dennis Keenan, executive director of Catholic Charities in western Oregon for 18 years. “At the heart of our work is living out Jesus’ call to serve those who are poor and vulnerable. Every person is blessed, every person is gifted, every person is capable. People just have obstacles in life. What we do is remove obstacles.”

The kindly, bearded member of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish sits in a humble Southeast Portland office. The downtown skyline looms a mile or two in the distance. A portrait of Archbishop John Vlazny hangs prominently in the small lobby.

Keenan calls the organization “the professional service arm of the church.” City, state and federal governments and other agencies look to Catholic Charities as a leader in social services, especially refugee resettlement.

Maboko was only 7 when genocide broke out in Burundi in 1972. The ruling tribe sensed rebellious urges from the oppressed majority and cracked down, sending out murderous squads, even to schools. He escaped as a boy with his father to what was then called Zaire and got an education. After hopeful elections in Burundi in the early 1990s, Maboko returned home as a young man, but strife returned. He went back to Zaire but was fingered by an old classmate with connections to the other tribe and to the military. He landed in jail.

One day, on an outhouse run, he found a stiff piece of wire and hid it from armed guards in his shirt. Over the course of days, he dug a hole big enough for his head to fit through and the slim rest of him followed into the night.

Maboko spent eight months begging food and traveling by dark.

In 1999, he met a priest who helped him cross into Zambia, where he found work teaching. He lived there for five years before being allowed passage into the U.S. with the family he had established.

“We are happy here and welcomed here,” he says.

Ceclia Baricevic has helped refugees on the margins through Catholic Charities and its predecessors for 49 years.

“It is the church’s mandate to help people in those conditions,” Baricevic says, explaining that she feels good about belonging to a community that does work like this.

“Refugees are optimistic,” she says. “They want to make a better life for themselves. They want to work. They have the same hopes for their families as we do. It takes great courage and it’s not easy.”

In the coming years, Catholic Charities expects large numbers of refugees from the fighting in Iraq.

The agency receives some federal grants but runs largely on private donations. Since 1989, the agency’s annual budget has grown from $100,000 to about $10 million. There were four staff 18 years ago, now there are 150.

Over the decades, domestic need for services has increased. That’s because families have disintegrated, wages have not kept pace, mentally ill patients have been mainstreamed, drugs have surged into the culture and housing costs have soared.
These factors, says Keenan, have eroded the middle class and created an Oregon “underclass,” especially in the older suburbs that ring Portland.

To keep close to Catholic values, there are bold decisions to make along the way. A decade ago, Catholic Charities left the United Way guild because another member organization, Planned Parenthood, had begun offering abortions. Withdrawal meant losing 10 percent of its budget, but donors have made up the difference.

Catholic Charities serves everyone. An unofficial motto here is that “we serve people not because they are Catholic but because we are Catholic.”

As an example of its work, the agency launched an outreach to homeless women 10 years ago, noting a dearth of professional services to that population. The aim is to get women out of the environment that sparks self-destructive habits. That means housing, education and a new set of friends. Only after a woman is housed and stable can counselors make a move on mental health problems or addictions, obstacles that impede self-sufficiency.

One client, a 52-year-old who preferred to be known simply as Mary, had for decades worked, owned a car and lived in a house. About two years ago, a drinking problem and physical disabilities began to cause problems. She missed rent payments at the trailer court where she had resided for 10 years and ended up with no home. She stayed with friends for a while but then landed in a downtown shelter. Walking the streets exacerbated her problems and caused an emotional crisis.

That’s when Catholic Charities found her.

“No one ever expects they will be on the streets,” Mary says. “I sure didn’t. Needless to say, I wasn’t any good at it.”

Now, after six months in a quiet Parkrose apartment and with other help, Mary is sending out resumés. Though she knows the comeback will be hard, she has hope. She has found workers and peers who can sympathize, which makes her feel stronger.

“I just want to be able to take care of myself again,” says Mary.

Others in the Catholic Charities program for homeless women include a mother who could not read, who saw her child murdered and who was beaten by her husband. Over the years, staff helped her develop her talent for sewing. One Native American woman has turned her skill at making traditional food into a small business.

“Homeless people are the most human people I know. It’s just raw honesty,” says Margi Dechenne, a member of St. Francis Parish who manages the program that gets homeless women into housing. “For them, it’s not about where you live or what you wear, it’s about who you are as a human being.”

The program has stayed small and focused, so it can give good help to a few, not a little help to many. The agency works with about 50 women over a three-year period. The group goes on outings to concerts and museums and convenes at the office for a weekly movie with snacks. The average age of clients is 44.

“We have relationships with people,” Dechenne says. “That’s what makes it work.”
Meanwhile, Catholic Charities works to free those considered modern-day slaves.

Often, people from developing countries land in the U.S. and are offered housing or food in return for labor or sex. The relationship soon becomes abusive as the immigrant is forced into hard work or prostitution for little or no pay. Sometimes, a middle man in Mexico or some other country will arrange smuggled passage for a young person to the U.S., but pimps or unscrupulous employers at restaurants or farms are waiting on the other end.

It’s called human trafficking and it hits about 18,000 people each year in the U.S. In Oregon, the federal government pays Catholic Charities to get victims out of the bind. Though no traffickers have yet threatened Catholic Charities, the work is potentially dangerous.

“People say, why didn’t your clients just walk away?” says counselor April Folkertsma. “Well, the bonds that lock someone into human trafficking are not always visible.”

Pimps and employers keep the victim on a short leash not only with personal menacing, but with threats against family and loved ones, here and in the old country. And it’s not just a big-city phenomenon. Many traffickers operate in Oregon’s small towns.

Most clients are women in their 20s who have suffered extreme mental trauma. For those Catholic Charities rescues, psychotherapy comes soon after housing, food and medical care. Once the victim is stable, then counselors offer education, language classes and job help. The process of debriefing takes about a year.

Human trafficking, Folkertsma explains, emerged as one of the worst products of a competitive market. Producers resort to it because the demand for cheap goods is so high. Needless to say, the demand for cheap sex abides.

A close ally of the human trafficking work is Catholic Charities’ legal service to immigrants. Victims of trafficking can get refugee status. For all refugees and immigrants, family reunification cases receive special attention.

“Jesus’ public ministry is a ministry of inclusion with an emphasis on people excluded by an overly-rigorous application of the law,” says Doug Alles, social services director for Catholic Charities. “That is part of our mission, to reach people on the outside.”

Catholic Charities runs the premier social-service organization for Hispanics in Oregon. El Programa Hispano began 25 years ago and is both a refuge and a guidance point for thousands of newly arrived immigrants.

Housed in a former convent next to St. Henry Parish in Gresham, El Programa (as it’s widely known) aims to increase self-sufficiency, boost quality of life and enhance mutual understanding between cultures. Hispanics, who grew up with the Catholic Church as a hub of support, feel safe with the agency. Its reputation spreads by word of mouth.

Many clients speak no English and some indigenous people do not speak Spanish. They land work cleaning hotels, picking crops or doing day labor.

“They come looking for jobs and they face many barriers,” says Gloria Wiggins, who manages El Programa Hispano. She sits in front of a large poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe. El Programa counselors help clients find work, learn English, understand U.S. laws, work toward citizenship, send important letters, pay rent and enroll kids at school. Not long ago, drop-in center staff even helped a man get medical care when he arrived with a severed finger wrapped in a bloody towel. Now, staff are helping oversee treatment for a man who was hit by a MAX train. “Every time we think we have seen everything, something new comes,” says Wiggins, a native of Colombia, a member of St. Henry Parish and a former conflict mediator.

Organized by Providence Health System and El Programa, local parishes have trained more than 100 Spanish-speakers in basic health promotion.

Potential leaders get special general training.

Catholic Charities, Wiggins in particular, has taken a lead in supporting the hundreds of families torn apart after immigration arrests at a Portland food processing plant.

The agency was one of the first to take a look at the unique mental health needs of Hispanics. A special unit is in place for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

It became clear to El Programa workers that children of recent immigrants need special help in school. Education, leaders figured, is the surest way out of poverty. Catholic Charities works with 400 youths in six school districts in the state to prevent failing grades and dropping out. Among other tasks, workers enhance communication between educators and immigrant parents and intervene when youth gangs start recruiting, redirecting teens to more wholesome peers. There is even a soccer league to offer alternative activity.

In Medford, Maria Rosas-Aranda directs Catholic Charities efforts, which focus on Hispanic immigrants. With offices at Sacred Heart Parish for 17 years, Catholic Charities of Southern Oregon just recently grew into its own offices. The Medford branch has helped Alzheimer’s patients, started a women’s support group and addressed depression in Hispanic women. Now, like its Portland counterpart, it helps Hispanic students succeed in school.

It also helps Hispanics develop micro-enterprises. Men tend to begin their own construction businesses and women sell health products or bake cakes, for example. The agency’s classes teach bookkeeping, taxes and customer service.

In recent years, Catholic Charities has surged in developing low-cost housing for poor and disabled Oregonians. In Portland, where a decent two-bedroom apartment costs about $750 a month, housing costs play a large role in poverty. The agency tends 10 different sites, from Portland to southwest Oregon. In addition to a place to call home, clients get counseling, drug and alcohol treatment if needed and job training.

For decades, Catholic Charities has offered adoption services as one way to further the dignity of human life. The state looks to the agency to handle special adoptions, like those of children whose parents are unable to function because of meth addiction, incarceration or other problems. The agency runs homes for young mothers without resources, providing basic needs, counseling and a plan for independence.

Catholic Charities provides support for any woman unsure about embracing pregnancy. Project Rachel, named for the biblical figure who weeps for the lost children, maintains a round-the-clock hotline for women contemplating abortion. A confidential program for women who have had abortions helps them move toward reconciliation and healing.

Catholic Charities even conducts retreats for caregivers, parish staff, and volunteers who care for the elderly and those in frail health.

Catholic Charities does not choose its programs willy-nilly. Faced with infinite need yet limited resources, decision-makers rely on research into what methods work and then look to see what needs other helping agencies have skipped. That’s how the reach can extend to someone like Pascal Maboko, the refugee from Burundi.

In the middle of one of his long days, Maboko makes his way to visit another African refugee family. They are having trouble adjusting. Catholic Charities had called him on his wireless phone to ask for his help. “I am glad to do it,” he says. “I know that a little help can save a life.”