The Marion House Soup Kitchen serves more than 200,000 meals each year, but that’s not the primary focus of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, according to Andy Barton, executive director.
“More and more we see our kitchen as a strategic tool,” Barton explained. “It’s more than seeing that people’s bellies are full. It’s a pathway to finding work, a pathway to health care and a pathway to financial stability.”
Providing meals is among the 75 Catholic Charities programs, services, partnerships and community collaborations helping those in need.
“As a community we see the challenges that come with a good economy,” Barton said. “With that come difficulties for many and we as an agency are working to help individuals manage those, such as loss of employment and homelessness.”
Barton said one of Catholic Charities’ biggest accomplishments this year has been connecting unemployed individuals with employers. He said that more than 100 people have found jobs thanks to its partnerships with businesses and its 2-year-old Life Skills and Career Development Program.
“Men and women walk through our doors without jobs. Our program can accelerate them getting back into the workforce,” Barton explained. “We’re excited about the number of folks we’ve helped into jobs. Many are work-ready but just need a little boost, which they get from our Life Skills program.”
Plans are underway to expand this, and other programs, as the facility undergoes a shake-up of sorts. In December all of the family programs will move to the Helen Hunt campus. This includes a day center for families, case management, access to showers and laundry facilities and helping parents find work. Catholic Charities is partnering with CPCD so children will have access to early childhood education on site.
“We see this as one way to stop the cycle of poverty that touches the parent and child,” Barton said. “It will be a flagship for families. Where, as a facility in Colorado Springs, any family in need can find services on site or find immediate access to services.”
Relocating family services to another campus means that the existing Catholic Charities’ space will have more room to expand current programs, notably Life Skills. “That will move from a single room with five computers,” Barton said, “to a full floor with 12 computers. We will be able to meet more needs.”
“Families are what we focus on most right now,” Barton said, “and we’re looking to continue working with our partners in the community. If we can start to move the needle profoundly around those kids experiencing homelessness, then we’ll have some profound hope for the future.”
Catholic Charities also works with health care partners and offers literacy classes, provides clothing, assists individuals in completing forms and more.
Catholic Charities was founded in 1968 as the social service arm of the Diocese of Colorado Springs. The agency serves the 10-county area that mirrors the diocese. Barton, a Colorado Springs native, has served as president and chief executive officer since January 2015.
“I’m very pleased to work in my hometown and be a part of helping to make it a better place year after year.”