Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Michael Alexander
Catholic Charities opened a new office located in Atlanta’s Northlake area. The new workplace houses the offices for Refugee Resettlement Services and Immigration Legal Services.

Charities Weather Economic Stress With Merger, Gifts

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published January 3, 2013

ATLANTA—For Catholic charitable work in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 2012 was a significant year.

Among the major announcements was the merger of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and The Sullivan Center, bringing together two nonprofit organizations with Catholic roots and similar missions of helping people achieve self-sufficiency by providing financial, material and educational support.

Founded in Atlanta 30 years ago by Dominican Sister Marie Sullivan, The Sullivan Center’s mission is to work with clients to help them find ways to become self-supporting while fostering respect for the dignity of each person experiencing hardship, poverty, loss of jobs and homes. In the recent economic climate, as funds received by The Sullivan Center dwindled, Sister Marie found in SVdP Georgia an organization with a similar mission that would continue to serve those who are so dear to her.

“This merger united two organizations with similar missions to help individuals achieve self-sufficiency,” John Berry, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, wrote by email.

“While The Sullivan Center has provided its clients with outstanding programs, the focus will introduce St. Vincent de Paul programs and services to the area while also expanding the Center’s food pantry program,” Berry said.

St. Vincent de Paul Georgia has been serving people in need for more than 100 years by providing person-to-person service and programs. The lay-run organization has 73 volunteer groups, known as St. Vincent de Paul conferences, most based in Catholic parishes. The conferences help people in need in their local area, emphasizing personal contact. St. Vincent de Paul also has 38 food pantries, 10 thrift stores and five family support centers in Georgia. The central office for St. Vincent de Paul Georgia is on Chamblee-Tucker Road in Atlanta.

Those currently being served by The Sullivan Center will continue to be assisted at its Dill Street location in Atlanta.

In addition, SVdP Georgia received the largest single donation in its history in 2012, a $500,000 bequest from a Cathedral of Christ the King parishioner.

Through her meetings with Father Frank McNamee, Cathedral pastor, and upon prayerful consideration, the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, decided she wanted to leave this financial gift to help the poor and chose St. Vincent de Paul Georgia.

Berry sees the gift as an affirmation of the impact the volunteers of St. Vincent de Paul make daily, whether making home visits to assess the needs of people requesting help, or working in their thrift stores, or processing food in their growing program of distributing food to the hungry. He also sees the Holy Spirit’s power in touching the donor’s heart.

“It’s a validation of the work 4,000 volunteers in Georgia do. It’s a validation that they make a difference and are changing lives one at a time,” he said. “It’s a great Christmas story. It’s the Holy Spirit at work to help us as the Holy Spirit always does. Between Father Frank and the cathedral and the donor, this was just an amazing thing.”

Last November (l-r) Tony Brewster, Thomas George and Barrett Mellone unloaded the St. Vincent de Paul truck after Brewster returned from eight different metro Atlanta Kroger stores with 1,670 pounds of meat and dairy products. Photo by Michael Alexander

SVdP will use a portion of the gift to strengthen its endowment fund. The majority of the money will go to direct services to help the poor as requested. In fiscal year 2010 the Society helped 189,000 people and in 2011 aided 202,000. And Berry expects this year’s number to be thousands higher with the majority of clients these days being the working poor and middle class people out of work.

In response, SVdP is expanding, adding four or five new parish conferences next year to its current 76, which is up from 58 five years ago. Additionally, it plans to add three new family support centers next year. And it will expand its food program started in 2010 that processes 10 tons of food monthly from Kroger stores and Sam’s Club and distributes it to its 38 food pantries.

Another significant gift was given to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2012, which benefitted local Catholic charities and organizations. In August the archdiocese announced it was the recipient of a bequest from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, the author of “Gone With the Wind.”

In addition to designating a large portion of the gift to the Cathedral of Christ the King, where Joseph Mitchell was a parishioner, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory assigned $1.5 million to Catholic Charities Atlanta for its immediate use and an additional $2 million to create an endowment fund for the social services agency to address its long-term need for sustaining income.

Catholic Charities Atlanta’s Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Legal Services had earlier in 2012 moved to new offices at Interstate 285 and Northlake Parkway.

Catholic Charities Atlanta expects to resettle approximately 250 refugees this fiscal year. Refugees are arriving from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and many other countries. Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

The move from West Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta to the new office increases the space available to CCA staff for appointments with individuals and for storing donations. It also increases their accessibility to clients.

Catholic Charities Atlanta Immigration Services program includes five main service areas: immigration family law, assisting both individuals and families in obtaining legal status and naturalization; immigrant juvenile program, which provides consultation and legal representation to immigrant children; the immigration detention project, which assists immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who are unable to afford private counsel; Violence Against Women Act, working with immigrant children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their families; and workshops and public education for advocacy, provided through 20 to 30 informational workshops for community agencies and organizations. The largest percentage of immigration cases deal with the adjustment of legal status of clients, estimated at about 27 percent of the office’s total cases.

Over the last 18 months, Catholic Charities Atlanta also debuted a new outreach called The Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class. The program invites young and mid-management professionals to be part of a program to enhance their leadership skills and integrate their Catholic faith in the workplace. Participants also learn more about Catholic Charities Atlanta and other service organizations throughout North Georgia and are asked to assist the agency as part of their commitment as servant leaders in the future. The first class was the Class of 2011.

Finally, at the end of 2012, Chief Executive Officer Joe Krygiel stepped down from his leadership position,, retiring after eight years at the helm of Catholic Charities Atlanta. An executive recruiting firm has begun a national search for a new chief executive officer.