SALT LAKE CITY — The work of Catholic Community Services often goes unheralded, but at the organization’s 2019 Humanitarian Awards Dinner, held Oct. 30 at Little America Hotel, the speakers and honorees praised the many services CCS provides to the homeless, refugees and the poor.
“CCS – there’s just something different about them,” community advocate Pamela Atkinson said. “Much of it, it comes from the people. … It’s not only the service they deliver; it’s the way they deliver that service. It’s given to thousands of underserved people, and they do it with caring and they do it with love.”
CCS was founded in 1945 by the Most Rev. Duane G. Hunt, fifth Bishop of Salt Lake City. In the early years CCS provided foster care for wards of the state and assistance to unwed mothers.
“While using an organizational approach to social problems Catholic Charities (as it was known then) has never, never forgotten the simple and the humble charity of the Lord. The agency is guided by the ideals which Christ the Lord has given us,” Bishop Hunt wrote in an annual Catholic Charities report.
Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, who received the Lifetime of Service award, shared with the audience this bit of history and other tales of his experiences during his two terms as CCS executive director.
“What a wonderful legacy; that’s the foundation of Catholic Community Services,” Msgr. Fitzgerald said. “That legacy has continued on, day in, day out, different ministries, different ways of doing the work.”
Over the past 52 years, the St. Vincent de Paul dining room has served almost 19 million meals to the homeless, said Odyssey House CEO Adam Cohen, who accepted the Partner of the Year award on behalf of his agency.
“CCS is at the epicenter of helping those less fortunate; they are core to our community’s journey of transforming our homeless resource system,” Cohen said.
Shari Seiner, president of the CCS Board of Trustees, shared some of the agency’s more recent accomplishments.
The organization now has 10 distinct programs that provide services to different populations. Among them is the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden, which each year distributes 3 million pounds of food to those in need. CCS will be tearing down the existing food bank building, which is almost 100 years old, and replacing it with a more efficient structure, Seiner announced.
Also, in January the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall’s kitchen in Salt Lake City will launch St. Vincent’s Kitchen Academy, a culinary training program for those experiencing homelessness. This has been made possible by a $1.5 million remodel of the dining hall’s kitchen.
In addition, since September CCS has been the operating agency of the Gail Miller Resource Center, a 200-bed overnight resource center for men and women that provides service to the homeless, including case management, classes and access to health care through a partnership with the 4th St Clinic.
“We are proud to be at the forefront of this new effort, pioneering the way in developing and implementing best practices to help our homeless friends reach self-sufficiency,” Seiner said.
In his remarks that evening, the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City, praised the work of CCS.
“It is quite inspiring to see our community united in a common mission of making a difference in the lives of people; extending God’s love, compassion and mercy to our brothers and sisters, those who are considered the least, the last in our society,” he said.
“Thank God for the goodness of humanity that continues to prevail, providing us with beacons of light in our dark world,” he said. “We have organizations and institutions and other groups that take the task of responding to the challenges and needs of our time. We are thankful for the significant works of many, one of which is the Catholic Community Services of Utah.”
Bishop Solis also expressed appreciation for the honorees and the organizations and individuals whose contributions fund CCS programs.
They are “men and women who witness what the world admires: the goodness of humanity,” he said. “I’m convinced that this is what makes our city and community unique. We see and relate to one another, focusing more on our commonalities, inspired by our common faith tradition that is to love and to treat one another with equal dignity and respect as brothers and sisters and as members of God’s family.”
Other honorees that night included the Huntsman Foundation, which was named the organizational Humanitarian of the Year; and individual Humanitarian Tom Stevens, whose company has completed a number of projects for CCS over the past decade. Volunteers of the Year Nicholas and Nancy Ward serve regularly at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall.
The CCS Employee of the Year was Rosario Corona; employee Andrew Slazak, who recently retired, also was recognized.
In a special video presentation, CCS also paid tribute to Jean Merkl Henkels, who passed away in September.
Among the distinguished guests at the awards dinner were the Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah; M. Russell Ballard, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with members of the Presiding Bishopric and Relief Society General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Diocese of Salt Lake City Vicar General Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw and various members of the Catholic diocese’s clergy and religious. Carole Mikita acted as Mistress of Ceremonies.