Expanding service

Catholic Charities will now offer more services out of its Kansas City, Kan., location by moving administrative offices to a new location


by Kara Hansen 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sometimes, what you’re looking for has been there all along.

Catholic Charities certainly found that to be the case when planners began looking for a place to expand, then discovered it in their own backyard.

It all started when Catholic Charities was unable to renew the lease on its counseling center office near Shawnee Mission Medical Center because of the hospital’s expansion. When administrators investigated comparable nearby office space, they found the rent on a space capable of accommodating the 20-person counseling staff prohibitive.

But as luck — or perhaps, providence — would have it, there was an ideal space already vacant right next door to TurnStyles, the thrift store maintained by Catholic Charities at 9750 W. 87th in Overland Park.

“We came to very favorable terms with the landlord, and our board approved us going forward on this new space,” said Jan Lewis, executive director of Catholic Charities.

The space is so large, in fact, that Catholic Charities is taking over more space than needed for the counseling staff. The additional room will provide the agency a much-needed opportunity for expansion.

Services previously offered at the Family Support Center location in Mission will be consolidated into the new space in Overland Park, and administrative staff from the Wyandotte County office at 2220 Central will also be relocated to Overland Park.

“We need to provide more services out of our Wyandotte County office, and the expansion allows for that,” explained Lewis. “With the accounting department moving out of the office, we will have more storage space for the food pantry, more staff for emergency assistance, and an office for Catholic Community Employment Services.”

Plans are also in place to relocate Refugee and Migrant Services from St. Benedict’s Children’s Center to the Wyandotte County office.

“Transportation is a huge issue for many of our clients, so by offering more services at one location, it will be easier for people to tap into those services,” said Lewis.

Additionally, the Keeler Women’s Center plans to relocate to the office on 2220 Central Avenue. The Keeler Center is currently housed at Donnelly College and has been since its inception in 2003.

In the past four years, however, both the Keeler Center and Donnelly College have grown tremendously, leaving space in the building at a premium.

“Right now it’s hard to find the space and privacy to really maximize our opportunities for working effectively with women,” said Benedictine Sister Carol Ann Peterson, director of the women’s center. “Minute to minute, our space is at a premium for programs and services.”

In its new location, the Keeler Center will double the space it currently has. Sister Carol Ann said the plan would be to continue the current programs and services, as well as offer other needed programs, such as basic literacy.

“We know one in four adults in Wyandotte County does not have basic literacy skills, and oftentimes it’s reading or math skills that keep someone from getting a job or advancing in a job,” said Sister Carol Ann.

Moving into the office with Catholic Charities seems a natural fit for the Keeler Center, as the two agencies already refer clients to one another for various services.

And Lewis expects the collaboration to only increase, now that Keeler Center will be able to utilize Charities computers for programs it might wish to introduce. Lewis hopes the two can partner in offering English as a Second Language courses.

“I think this will make our Wyandotte County office more vibrant, with more programs and services offered in both the day and evening. The office will be more alive and contribute to further renewal in the community,” said Lewis.

The move benefits the new Overland Park location as well.

Emergency services, volunteer services, Catholic Community Employment Services, and counseling services will all be housed in the same location, along with administrative staff. Additionally, Catholic Charities will offer the Friendly Visitors program for the first time in Johnson County, which is designed to provide companionship for shut-ins.

“It’s a very central location with easy access to I-35. I think the location will improve our visibility in the community, and hopefully will allow us to serve more clients,” said Mike Jurkovich, director of Health Services for Catholic Charities. “We will be able to assist more clients with more services in one place. This makes us more of a one-stop shop.”

While the expansion and move have Catholic Charities staff looking forward to providing more opportunities for services, a few growing pains are to be expected.

“With our new location and visibility in Johnson County, I anticipate we might be a little overwhelmed as there is an increased demand for services,” said Lewis.

Plans are in place for staff to move into the new location in Overland Park, and expand in the Kansas City, Kan., office by the end of September. The Keeler Women’s Center plans to move into the Catholic Charities office in Wyandotte County in December.

The expansion is just one more way for Catholic Charities to further its mis- sion of “serving those in need with compassion and competence.”

“At the end of the day, this makes us more effective and productive. Through the consolidation, we are better able to be good stewards of the gifts we have been given,” said Lewis.

 

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