New Name . . . Same Great Agency

We are pleased to announce that, as of June 1, 2012, Catholic Family Services will begin doing business as (dba) “Catholic Charities, Diocese of Kalamazoo.”   We’ve been known as Catholic Family Services since 1975 and have been serving our community in some form since 1915.  We’ve got a strong history, a good reputation, and a great community of supporters.  So why the change?

First of all, we want you to know that this something we’ve put great thought in to, not a “spur of the moment decision.”  A name is more than just a few words . . . it’s an identity, a brand, and a representation of the organization within the community.  It’s typically the first thing people know about an organization — and it should tell the community what that organization is about.

We’ve been testing the new name with our board, stakeholders, and others for quite some time and have received very positive feedback.  If this is the first time you are hearing about the new name (and even if it’s not), we’d love to know what you think about the new name.  We are still the same great agency serving our community with compassion, care, and concern for justice.

In short, there are four main reasons to explain why we are making the change:

  • to build community awareness and prepare for future growth of our agency and its programs and services, which have expanded in scope, not only reaching families but also into the life of the broader community
  • to distinguish our agency from others with names that are similar to “family services” and to include in our name the sponsor and service area, the Diocese of Kalamazoo
  • to recognize our affiliation with the known and respected national association of Catholic social service providers, Catholic Charities USA
  • to connect our mission and our works to the virtue of charity, the love for all people

Some of the intial feedback expressed concern with the word “charity.”  We want to be clear in our understanding of the word, which has its roots and meaning in “love.”  In short, we do what we do out of love.  Our donors, volunteers, stakeholders, and partners join us (and bless us) in this Mission, serving others out of love.  The Bible speaks of “faith, hope, and love (charity).”  Christians recognize these as virtues to be practiced to grow closer to God.  Catholic Charities is an expression of our love (caritas), an opportunity for Catholics and others to develop the habitual and firm disposition to do good works and love our neighbors.

We hope the new name will increase the community’s awareness of our agency and inspire all people to join us in building a community that supports the human dignity of each person.

We invite you to join us at a Name Change Reception at the Kalamazoo Institue of Arts on May 1 from 4 PM to 6 PM.  If you are interested in attending or would like more information, please contact Ellie Clark at 269-381-9800 or via e-mail at ellieclark@catholicfamilyservices.org.

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STAR Volunteer Award Winner Changes Lives at Caring Network

Caring Network was so pleased to nominate Brook Hill for a STAR Volunteer Award . . .and even more pleased to learn that she had won the award!  She was officially presented the award in front of hundreds of attendees at the STAR Volunteer Award breakfast in downtown Kalamazoo on April 18th.  Congratulations to Brooke . . . and thanks so much for all you have done to support our clients and services at Caring Network! 

We’d like to tell you about her service and how she uses her time and talents to change lives . . .

As a Mother-Friend Volunteer, Brooke provides one-on-one mentoring to two different Caring Network clients.  Brooke is able to relate to these mothers and provide them with compassionate care and support because she was a teen mother herself.  Homeless at 17 and a victim of domestic violence, Brooke brings a hard-earned wealth of knowledge and empathy which our clients relate to.  Brooke’s supportive personality makes Caring Network clients feel comfortable expressing what’s happening in their lives.  Her mentoring coincides with the case management and professional counseling participants already receive at Caring Network.

Brooke has used her life experiences as a teen mother to motivate others to pursue their goals.  She believes strongly in not becoming a victim to circumstance.

“I have a passion for people and for life.  I believe anything is possible through ‘self’ and God.  When we believe in ourselves we can overcome even the most difficult of situations.”

When asked why she chose to share her time and talents with Caring Network clients, Brooke simply stated, “I enjoy volunteering at Caring Network because I have an understanding and empathy for the participants I cross paths with.  By listening and offering advice when appropriate, I hope to make a difference in someone’s day.”

In addition to her Mother-Friend work, Brooke serves as a Support Volunteer each week, helping our clients “shop” in the Caring Network basement for baby items and organizing donated clothes.  She has also been a guest speaker at Caring Network’s teen pregnancy and education class series.  The young women and men who attended reported feeling extremely comfortable asking her questions because she was so “approachable and intelligent,” adding, “She understands the fears of being young and pregnant.”  “She doesn’t sugar coat anything, yet she lets our clients know that they can still create a positive and productive life,” says Jeannine Boehm, Volunteer Coordinator.  She volunteered more than 105 hours at Caring Network in 2011.

We are so grateful to Brooke for her compassionate service.  We applaud her and the courage it takes to share of yourself in the way she does each week.  If you’d like to become involved in a similar way — using your own experiences, strengths, time, and talents — please call Jeannine Boehm at 269-381-1234.  She would be more than happy to explore options that use your experience and knowledge to change lives!

Youth Leading The Way

Every Thursday afternoon you can find a group of youth flooding into Catholic Family Services’ main office.  These youth come from across the region and bring diverse histories, situations, and attitudes to the table.  Most are current or former Ark Services for Youth clients, youth who have dealt intimately with homelessness, poverty, family crisis, and other issues.   Some simply want to be involved in their communities in meaningful ways.

The reason they all come together?  To participate in our Youth Advisory Board!

Meetings typically begin with a social time while the teens gnosh on food and reflect on their week.  It quickly becomes much more, however, as his group of creative and innovative youth works together to learn about their communities, develop plans to reach youth in crisis, and reach out to others in need.  The group also provides invaluable input to our Ark Services for Youth Programs and helps us stay grounded and focused on youth trends and needs.

During the first few months of meeting, the group developed a specific set of goals for their time together — and these goals aim high to produce positive results:

  • Create action and change
  • Self-advocate
  • Feel a sense of empowerment
  • Celebrate achievements
  • Share ideas
  • Gain a community of support
  • Volunteer

So what has the Youth Advisory Board done to work on these goals? 

Just since October they have participated in Kalamazoo’s Safe Halloween event, the Christian Life Center’s Halloween Carnival, Kalamazoo’s Holiday Parade, a Holiday Food Drive, the MLK Day of Caring event hosted by the Deacon’s Conference, and HRI’s Walk for the Homeless.  In addition, the group has already created a plan to spur economic development over the summer by partnering with a local coffee house.  They will be hosting Poetry Slams there, reaching out to youth in crisis in the process.  Together with staff, they wrote a grant to fund the project (they will know more about the success of this grant application in late April).

We are so proud of the youth in our Youth Advisory Board. 

These youth have shown amazing commitment and dedication and built a real sense of community over the past five months of service.  We look forward to providing updates on their progress in the upcoming weeks and months and celebrate their success!  Not only are they helping their community and Catholic Family Services, but they are learning amazing leadership skills and growing as individuals in the process!  Truly these youth ARE making a difference.

Won’t you join them? 

If you’d like to be involved in the work of Catholic Family Services, the Youth Advisory Board, or The Ark Services for Youth, call Jeannine Boehm at 269-381-1234.