Catholic Charities’ story of hope began in the heart of Flint Michigan, in 1941, as America was beginning to recover from the Great Depression, and WWII was unfolding in the Pacific. Father Earl Sheridan, a young priest with a new Masters Degree in Social Work, arrived in Flint eager to make a difference. With the help of several Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, he founded the Catholic Social Service Bureau to help individuals and families through counseling, and to provide resources for young pregnant mothers. During those early years, the agency quickly grew to meet the needs of the community by founding the Don Bosco mentoring program for young men, developing employment and financial assistance programs, as well as by obtaining a state adoption
license in 1955.
In 1966, Bill Haley, a longtime staff member, assumed leadership as the first lay director of the agency. In that same year, the organization changed its name to Catholic Social Services (CSS), to be more consistent with name used by Catholic social service agencies across the country.
In 1987, the North End Soup Kitchen (NESK), a long-standing fixture in the community, joined with Catholic Social Services to better serve those in need. In the years since, the program has expanded to meet the ever-increasing need for food in the area. Today, Catholic Charities’ Community Service Program now includes the North End, South Flint and Center for Hope Soup Kitchens, three sack lunch programs, the Center for Hope Community Closet and Warming Center in Flint, as well as the Community Closet and Food Pantry in Owosso.
By 1997, the agency had outgrown its location in the United Way building in downtown Flint. A new home was soon found in the former St. Michael Catholic Church convent, on the north edge of downtown. The building was renovated to make office spaces for counseling, substance use treatment, education and support groups, as well as space for foster care visitation rooms. In that same year, Catholic Social Services in Genesee and Shiawassee Counties merged, joining efforts in order to better utilize resources and to make a greater impact in the community.
In 2000, Catholic Social Services changed its name once more to Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, again in an effort to be consistent with other, similar agencies nationwide.
In the fall of 2011, Catholic Charities acquired the former St. Michael Catholic School (Schools of Choice) building, expanding the agency campus, and increasing the capacity to serve those in need. The building was named the Sr. Claudia Burke Center for Hope, in honor of a Franciscan Sister of the Poor who founded both the North End Soup Kitchen and Catholic Outreach, and helped to start the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Her legacy of service to the poor lives on through the programs provided in the building.
In 2013, Catholic Outreach, another Flint Catholic social service agency, founded in 1977, merged with Catholic Charities to reduce costs by stretching resources and increasing the ability to serve the poor.
Today, the purpose of Catholic Charities continues to be to serve the most poor and vulnerable by providing quality, comprehensive, human service programs. Our mission of Providing Help and Creating Hope drives the services we provide and compels us to constantly evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our community.
Click Here for the History of Catholic Charities that was placed in the program for the 75th Anniversary Celebration.