Inside Catholic Charities

Column: Along with practical aid, Charities dispenses hope

After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.

After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.

by Ken Williams
Executive director of Catholic Charities

What does Catholic Charities actually do?

It’s probably the most common question I’ve been asked since joining this incredible ministry. I generally respond to this question by talking about our diverse set of programs.

I talk about our adoption program and what a privilege it is to play a role in matching a family desperate-ly searching for a child with a child in need of a forever family.

I tell them about our foster care program, which focuses on those children that, because of their special needs, are often the most difficult to place with a family.

I talk about our hospice team, which delivers professional and compassionate care to those near the end of their journey in this life.

I tell them about our in-home support and Friendly Visitors programs that take care of the elderly and shut-ins in our community.

I tell them about our incredible refugee and migrant services group that resettles 250 political refugees every year and how it works with them every day to teach them the skills they will need to assimilate in their new country.

I talk about our thrift stores in Olathe and Overland Park that provide affordable used clothing, books and home furnishings to those who can’t afford
to shop at typical retail or department stores.

Lastly, I talk about Catholic Charities’ Emergency Assistance Centers in Wyandotte County, Olathe, Overland Park, Topeka, Lawrence, Emporia, Leavenworth and Atchison and how they assist our brothers and sisters in need with basic provisions of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

The response is almost always the same: Wow, I had no idea. Then we talk about other charitable organizations that they support or recognize. Then the comparisons start. So Catholic Charities does the same thing as this organization
or that organization. Yes, in terms of content, we are similar to other organizations that serve the poor. But that’s where the similarities end.

And then I tell them that what Catholic Charities really does: We dispense hope.

Every day, our incredible staff and volunteers answer God’s call to serve those in need. And each day, they remind themselves that there’s something even more important than the services we provide.

Yes, even more important than the warm clothing and food we distribute on these frigid winter days. We dispense hope. Hope that someone cares. Hope that they are not alone. Hope that there’s a better future. Hope that they really matter because they have been convinced that they don’t. Hope that changes everything.

But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted forever perish. — Ps 9:18

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Ken Williams

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