Catholic Charities is people helping people. Its history has been written by the hundreds of board members, foster parents, caseworkers, Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul Society members, house parents, board members and committee members who have served the agency since its beginnings.
Although rooted in a Catholic tradition that shapes its core mission of service to all, it exists within a pluralistic community. Perhaps as many as 85% of the agency’s staff is non-Catholic, although that figure is not tracked. Similarly, the vast majority of those being served are not Catholic. Today, those continuing to write the history of the agency include a variety of people of good will, Catholic and non Catholic alike, who are called by many reasons to serve.
In the Diocese of Yakima, Catholic Charities began with the vision of the late Bishop Thomas Gill, of Seattle.
From its very beginning, the agency was immersed in the provision of Child Welfare Services and indeed, its early history was built upon this foundation.
In the summer of 1949, then Father Gill organized the Yakima Children’s Bureau as a subsidiary of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Seattle.
After working for one year, the Board obtained the support of the Community Chest, and Phil Brocking was hired as Executive Secretary of the office. The agency then received official approval from the State Department of Public Assistance to become licensed as a childcare agency.
When Yakima became a diocese in 1952, the Corporation of Catholic Charities of Yakima was formed with the Diocese’s first bishop, Bishop Joseph P. Dougherty, as its first president.
In its early years, one social worker and a secretary staffed the Children’s Bureau. The Bureau maintained its operations only through the help of the Bishop, the Sisters of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the efforts of the Board, St. Paul’s parish, several local physicians and the aid of the Community Chest.
By the fifth year of its operation, the Bureau was serving the Tri Cities and Wenatchee and had placed 73 children in adoptive homes.
In 1956, the agency’s name was changed to Catholic Family & Child Service. The agency provided casework service to children in their own homes, and offered foster home placement, adoptive services, and care for unwed mothers. In June of that year, a branch office was opened in Wenatchee, and in July, the Villa Madonna Maternity Home was opened in Yakima. By January 1957, the Catholic Family & Child Service - Richland branch office was opened.
In the decades following, Catholic Charities of Yakima continued to evolve and develop sites, services and programs to respond to emerging needs across central Washington.
In 1998, Catholic Charities formed a separate 501 (3) (c) housing agency that today provides affordable Farmworker and Workforce housing, migrant housing, senior housing and single family housing in 13 communities across central Washington. To date, almost $100,000,000 of new construction and development has led to the creation of over 500 units of affordable housing, including two single family subdivisions for first-time homeowners.
In 2009, Catholic Charities also formally accepted the network of St. Vincent Centers under its administrative and governing structure. The addition of three thrift stores, a food bank and an emergency services program increased the agency's capacity to respond to its mission of service.
Today, Catholic Family & Child Service, the agency that began in 1949 with a small handful of people, is a large and effective organization serving almost 50,000 people annually: mostly children; mostly poor. With 10 Catholic Family & Child Service locations across central Washington, the agency continues to provide services and respond to emergent needs.
In 2011, Catholic Charities continues to be a formidable presence in the largely rural Diocese of Yakima. With nearly 40 service locations and almost 90,000 people served annually, the agency remains a testimony to its ongoing Mission of “Bringing Hope to Life”
How We Help Financials Annual Report Board and Staff