Alabama charity restructures to better serve community

Mobile, Ala., May 16, 2013 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Social Services of Mobile is undergoing a fund raising effort so that it can more effectively provide assistance to those in need in southern Alabama through a centralized office.

The charity is currently operating out of four different locations, and has purchased a space in midtown Mobile to replace the fractured infrastructure it is currently using.

“The main thing is really to have a one-stop shop for the clients; most of our clients need multiple services,” Marilyn King, executive director of Catholic Social Services of Mobile, told CNA May 15.

Having four separate locations is “not to the advantage of our clients,” she said, “nor to the talent and quality of our staff to be able to do their best work, when we're sending someone three blocks this way or five miles the other way to get services.”

The charity serves more than 24,000 different individuals annually from across Mobile County. The apostolates of Catholic Social Services include adoption and pregnancy services, counseling, help for the disabled, refugee resettlement, disaster and hurricane relief, and a pharmacy.

The group's future location is a centrally located former grocery store located near I-65, while most of its current offices are located downtown, in the heart of the city.

“In Mobile there's people in the northern and southern end of the county that feel like they're taking an all day trip to get to downtown Mobile, which is not where our primary sources of clients come from, so people that come to see us have to come from a long way.”

The new location is on the edge of a declining neighborhood, and King hopes that the center will “strengthen” the local community, and added that “it makes sense to us to be…where people are. We don't need to be in a fancy building somewhere.”

“It's a functional building…we'll go in and build and make it very functional. We're not making any swanky offices, but we believe our clients should have a place that they feel safe, and you know, it looks good.”

The new facility will replace older buildings which are falling into disrepair.

“It's really important to the board and I that we leave a legacy to the generations coming behind us, because it's so important that we emphasize our care, and actually our preferential treatment, for the poor and marginalized…the mark of a good community is how you take care of them,” King reflected.

“People will know this is Catholic Social Services, that we will take care of people. It's our commitment to generations in the future, because there's always going to be people in need, and that's just one of the things we do in our Catholic faith.”

King explained that the vast majority of clients, 90 percent, are not Catholics.

“So we're not building it because they are Catholics, we're building it because we are Catholic, and honestly our mission in living out the Gospel is to take care of them; and we want that laid down in a nice orderly way for the generations coming behind mine, to always make that a priority.”

The effort to renovate the recently purchased property is being supported by the Legacy for the Future Project, with a fund raising goal of $3 million.

The project has already been supported with $1.3 million by grants from a number of foundations as well as private donors and a handful of parishes. It is now beginning to solicit support from parishes across the Mobile archdiocese as well as seeking donations from individuals.

A co-chair of the Legacy Project, Jo Dunaway, said that “I once heard Archbishop (Thomas J.) Rodi say that we are planting trees whose shade we’ll never know. Most of us will never walk through the doors of Catholic Social Services as a client, but we can provide some needed, life-giving comfort for those who will.”

King looks forward to serving Mobile's poor out of the new headquarters, and said that it will help Catholic Social Services in its “quality service delivery with competent staff, giving the best we have to the poor.”

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