Area gets 'local ownership'

By Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    08.27.2004
Category: Local News


Residents of Wayne County will soon have a Catholic Charities subsidiary to call their own. The board of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester formally created a new subsidiary -- Catholic Charities of Wayne County -- on June 22.

Catholic Charities has had a presence in Wayne County for more than two decades through a Newark office of the Rochester-based Catholic Family Center and two satellite offices of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, according to Rik Fowler, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.

Several factors led to the creation of the new subsidiary, Fowler said: Wayne County's population has steadily increased as more people discover they don't mind commuting to Rochester, and having two Catholic Charities subsidiaries serving the same area confuses many people. Although Catholic Family Center and Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes offices in the county are each responsible for separate programs and services, some mistakenly view the two entities as competitors or as a duplication of services. This has at times caused problems for both groups and occasionally hindered the grant-application process, he said.

Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes currently serves Wayne, Ontario, Yates, Seneca and Cayuga counties to the best of its ability with the resources available, Fowler said, adding that people in each region will benefit from the creation of this new subsidiary.

"My ability to have a presence in each county, interfacing with local officials and being highly visible, is at the moment divided by five," he said.

Fowler will now be able to concentrate his efforts on the other four counties, and the new subsidiary will have its own executive director, who can focus specifically on Wayne County.

Parishes, residents and local politicians welcome this change, said Father Jim Hewes, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde and St. Patrick's Parish in Savannah. Father Hewes is also a member of the new subsidiary's board, which includes representatives from the county's eight Catholic faith communities.

"With local ownership and local involvement you can be more effective. People like the idea of local ownership," Father Hewes said.

Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes offices in Wayne County currently provide clinical counseling services, counseling and one-on-one parenting education for single or expecting parents and offer a Hispanic community program and a sexual-abstinence education program to local school districts and youth organizations. The Newark office of Catholic Family Center offers special services through a contract with the Wayne County Department of Social Services, Fowler said.

All three offices will be integrated into the new subsidiary, and all of these programs and services will still be offered, according to Jack Balinsky, executive director of diocesan Catholic Charities. Members of the Wayne County Catholic Charities board have also begun to identify the county's needs and hope to eventually offer more services.

"The goal is not to replicate what is being done, but to try to find gaps where we can help," Father Hewes said.

Father Hewes said that his parishes and many others in the county have pledged a percentage of their return from the diocesan Partners in Faith capital/endowment campaign to help the new subsidiary get started. This commitment, along with special campaign donations designated for this purpose, amounts to approximately $200,000, Balinsky said.

The Wayne County board has already started searching for an executive director and plans to start the interview process in the next few weeks, Father Hewes said. The new executive director has to be someone who is capable not only of developing Wayne County Catholic Charities, but also of integrating the existing Catholic Charities entities into the new subsidiary.

"We've made a commitment among the board that we're not just going to hire a warm body," Father Hewes said. "I can't convey the excitement about this. It could be a really exciting thing for our county; a great thing."

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