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'Worst of times' an opportunity


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POSTED: Monday, December 07, 2009

We are living in unusual times. I believe Charles Dickens wrote it best in “;A Tale of Two Cities”;: “;It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”; Not only does this phrase epitomize our current state of affairs at Catholic Charities Hawaii, but it also addresses our circumstances on a broader scale, across our state and country, financially and emotionally.

Due to the economic environment, we see more and more families dealing with domestic violence as well as a heightened level of homelessness, child abuse and neglect, and difficulties adjusting to life's challenges.

This year alone we've seen staggering headlines: “;3-year-old reports alleged sexual abuse,”; “;Recession fuels rise in poverty in Hawaii,”; “;Hawaii shelters see rising demand.”; As an organization, we've seen an increase in the severity and urgency in the requests for assistance.

Last month alone we received more than 730 calls regarding housing assistance. An additional 1,200 calls were received for other services, such as unplanned pregnancies, adult violence and abuse, and difficulties encountered by immigrants and refugees, among others.

Some may look at these situations as the worst of times. We at Catholic Charities Hawaii see it as opportunity to bring about the best of times.

We see it as a time to challenge our staff and our community to come together to find innovative and effective approaches to human services.

Since 1947, we've been serving the community by providing assistance to people of all faiths and cultures, especially those with the greatest need. This is “;the best of times”; to continue our legacy in the community. This past year, we served more than 60,000 individuals through our 30-plus programs.

In order to ensure our ability to continue providing high-quality services to the community, we have taken the bold step of acquiring a 2.2-acre property in Makiki to build a permanent home for Catholic Charities Hawaii. An aggressive $28 million capital campaign is under way to fund this initiative, led by a dynamic group of community leaders. To date, we are at 66 percent of our goal and we need the community's assistance to raise the final $10 million by the end of 2010.

The new Catholic Charities Hawaii Clarence T. C. Ching Campus represents the achievement of our vision for an integrated, welcoming, permanent home. This campus will create a one-stop shop for client services as we consolidate our operations that were previously spread across Honolulu.

This project is much more than brick and mortar. It's an opportunity to consolidate programs and services to increase efficiencies. The new facilities offer easier access to services for clients as well as greater opportunities for collaboration with other service providers and nonprofits. It also provides us with opportunities to develop new models and strategies to address the growing needs for the most vulnerable in our island communities.

We've seen the beneficial effects that our programs have on individual lives and we hope to continue these efforts for many more years to come. We don't just provide services; we help people recover their lives.

For example, with more than 1,000 domestic violence calls reported in Hawaii every month, our Ho'ola Pono Domestic Violence Program counsels individuals and helps them develop awareness about the violence and abuse they've created and how it affects those around them. Raised in violence, many abusers have uncontrolled anger, believe that physical strength is power, and abuse substances to hide the pain. Through group counseling, these individuals learn about self-control and, most importantly, self-respect, which are essential to end the cycle of violence, help with the healing process and create awareness.

This is our opportunity, as an organization and a community, to join together and make these worst of times the best of times.

Jerry Rauckhorst, a licensed social worker, has been a leader in social services for more than 30 years. Most of his professional career has been in service to Catholic Charities agencies; first in Cleveland, then Pittsburgh, before coming to Hawaii in 1995.