The year was 1956. Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler, Monsignor John Horvat and Thomas Daly met to discuss the establishment of a new organization within the Archdiocese. Its sole focus would be on the management of “Catholic charitable activities,” especially the adoption of children into Catholic homes. On October 23rd of that year, a non-profit named Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was formed.

A year later, Monsignor Horvat was appointed to work full-time as Catholic Charities’ Archdiocesan Director. With the hiring of two social workers who had backgrounds in family and children services, he set up a formal office in Wyandotte County. Initially, he and his staff focused their energies on a single program, adoption. By the time his successor, Fr. Finnerty, took over, people were coming to Catholic Charities for food, clothing and financial assistance. Unable to afford a larger staff to help him with these things, he began recruiting volunteers. With their help, the first emergency assistance center (EAC) became a reality in 1965.

Today, the organization continues to be a thriving ministry of the Archdiocese, but operates under the name of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Assistance is provided to struggling individuals and families of all faiths throughout a 21-county service area. Staff has grown from just a couple of employees to 234. Volunteers remain crucial with over 1,200 each month assisting in the food pantries, sorting clothing, participating in mass food distributions, tutoring refugees, serving as financial mentors and more.

The number of programs has expanded to over 20, impacting every stage of life. “We continue to match newborn babies with their ‘forever families’ through adoption and counsel those faced with an unexpected pregnancy. We also resettle refugees forced to flee their country out of fear of death or persecution; offer in-home support to the elderly who need assistance with personal care, homemaking activities and errands; and provide compassionate, hospice care to those at the end of life’s journey,” explains Ken Williams, President and CEO.

Catholic Charities has also added Shalom House, which provides shelter, food and hospitality to up to 24 homeless men each night. EAC offices have grown from one in Kansas City, Kansas, to locations in Atchison, Emporia, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Olathe, Overland Park and Topeka. For those living in outlying areas, services are brought to them through two mobile resource buses.

“Catholic Charities has certainly evolved over the last 60 years from simply stabilizing families, to strengthening and moving them forward,” adds Williams. “We’ve progressed beyond just providing help. We’re giving hope.”