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This year marks Catholic Charities’ 75th year of outstanding service to the communities of South Florida. What started in 1931 with four Miami-area pastors and lay members of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul is today the largest nongovernmental provider of services to the needy in South Florida. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, with over 600 staff and an annual budget of over $38 million, has far exceeded the expectations of its Great Depression era founders.

On March 8, 1931, the Associated Catholic Charities was formally established in Miami and named the Catholic Welfare Bureau. From the beginning, the agency’s focus was to collaborate with other social service agencies to address the needs of Miami’s growing population, which by
1940 had grown to almost two million. The needs identified at that time included: family problems, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, juvenile delinquency, immigrants threatened with deportation, and children needing foster care.

In 1958, The Most Rev. Coleman F. Carroll was installed as the first bishop of the newly
established Diocese of Miami. Bishop Carroll soon named Fr. Bryan O. Walsh as Director of Catholic Charities. Fr. Walsh saw the future of the Church’s work in social development as depending on the forging of a partnership with other voluntary and public social service agencies. The agency had a staff of eleven at the time, and a budget of about $100,000.

Answering the needs.
In 1959, Centro Hispano Catolico, housed in the Gesu Parish School building became the hub of
multiple social services for newly arrived Cuban refugees. The Diocese also began to concern itself with unaccompanied Cuban children. Fr. Walsh helped establish a coordinated effort called the Cuban Children’s Program, with the help of 110 Catholic Charities’ agencies in 35 states. They provided temporary foster care in family and group homes throughout the U.S. “Operation Pedro Pan,” as it was nicknamed, was the largest airlift of unaccompanied children in the history of the United States. Over 14,000 unaccompanied children were sponsored into the USA.

By 1964, the Catholic Welfare Bureau was the second largest child welfare and care agency in the United States. In 1966, the agency’s name was changed from Catholic Welfare Bureau to Catholic Service Bureau.
The first half of the 1970’s were a boom time for opening new programs. St. Luke’s Methadone Clinic opened in 1970, followed by a child care center at St. Luke’s, providing services especially designed for children whose parents were substance abusers. Other programs included: Genesis in South Dade, a residential program for drug addicts; Ozanam, a half-way home for ex-offenders; Bethesda Manor, a half-way house for alcoholics; the Miami Bridge, a home for runaway teenagers; St. Vincent Outreach, a non-residential program especially for unwed mothers.

In order to serve the need for quality day care services for low income parents, several day care centers throughout Miami-Dade County were opened. In 1968, Good Shepherd Child Care Center opened in South Dade. In the mid-70’s Centro Mater and Centro Hispano, which were only informally affiliated with the Bureau, were incorporated under the umbrella of the agency. In 1975, Notre Dame in Little Haiti opened, followed by Sagrada Familia Child Care Center in Little Havana in 1979. More childcare centers opened in the ’90s with Centro Mater West in Hialeah, in ’96, and South Dade Child Care Center in ’97.

The period of 1975 to 1985 saw the expansion of Broward County services which expanded to a staff of over 100 and a budget of $2.5 million. In 1985, the first adult day care center was opened, a novel idea at the time. The Genesis residence for persons with AIDS was opened in Miami in 1988. It provided a comprehensive care program to thirty homeless persons with AIDS. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, Genesis was the only shelter in Miami-Dade County to assist homeless persons afflicted with AIDS.

In 1995, Monsignor Walsh stepped down as Executive Director of the Catholic Service Bureau and Monsignor Thomas Wenski was named to take his place. In 1996 the agency was renamed Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. Richard Turcotte, Ph. D. was chosen as new Chief Executive Officer in 1998, overseeing all the programs and services of Catholic Charities. Dr. Turcotte revamped the organizational structure, and set about to modernize the agency. He added a grants and development office to search and apply for new funding to help stabilize the budget of approximately $14 million. Catholic Charities assumed administration of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in 1999. The Center is the oldest and most comprehensive social service center caring for the needs of the Haitian community in South Florida.

Catholic Charities services were expanded to Monroe County when two outreach offices were opened in the summer of 2000 at St. Peter Church in Big Pine Key, and at the former St. Bede’s Parish in Key West. Teresa House in Key West opened in 2000 to house and assist homeless families in two transitional apartments. Additional family transition shelters were opened at Providence Place in Oakland Park, Angelica House in Pompano Beach, and New Life in Miami.

In 2006, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami served over 17,000 residents in the three counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe with twenty-two diverse programs to meet the needs of today’s families. Catholic Charities maintains its steadfast commitment of the past 75 years to bring service and care with professionalism, dignity, and compassion, and to advocate on behalf of those in need.

 

2006 © Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.
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