Q & A with Jack Callaghan

Catholic Charities of Oneida, Madison Counties also facing staffing shortages, says interim executive director. Nonprofit serves 7,500 individuals annually

By David Podos

Q: What was your title prior to becoming interim executive director?
A: I was the chief program officer. I was in that position slightly more than three years. Prior to that, I was director of residential and community services. I am approaching my 28th year working for Catholic Charities of Oneida/Madison Counties.

Q: How long has Catholic Charities been in our area and is it affiliated with any other organization?
A: We have been here in Utica since 1927. We are connected to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. So simply put, we are a corporation within a greater corporation.

Q: What is Catholic Charities’ mission statement?
A: Creating hope, transforming lives.

Q: What are the main services that you provide?
A: The largest program we have is our residential housing program supervised and supportive for people living with mental health issues and substance use disorders. At this time we are serving approximately 310 people in that capacity all within Oneida County. We do not have a residential housing program in Madison County.

Q: Besides the residential programs, what other services do you provide for your clientele?
A: The next biggest one, which is very key to our mission, is our community assistance program. We have three office locations that provide those services. One here in Utica, one in Rome and one in Oneida. Basically, we try to assist people with financial crises stemming from emergency situations. In addition, in our Rome location we operate a full-service food pantry for people in need. In our other offices we provide food vouchers, we assist with prescription services and help people get linked with other social services entities. There are other services we provide as well, all of them are very individualized depending on the need.

Q: What is the average number of people you serve within the three locations?
A: We provide services to approximately 7,500 people.

Q: How did COVID-19 affect your agency, what challenges were you faced with?
A: Well, we are always challenged to provide a safe living environment for the people we care for regardless of the pandemic. When COVID hit we had to put into place many restrictions like so many other agencies had to. Early on in the pandemic sourcing supplies for our community residences to feed them and to get them simple things like toilet paper and everyday necessities, those items that we all took for granted, now those supplies were vulnerable. So, we got creative by working with different vendors, by buying food for instance from wholesale establishments so we weren’t dependent going out to retail stores, which would expose our staff. We would compile the food and supplies in our auditorium, then bring them to our program sites. The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida counties provided us with funding for our PPE equipment, so it was a collaborative effort.

Q: How many employees do you have, and, are you experiencing any staff shortages?
A: We are still dealing with some of the staffing shortages that have been a down stream consequence of social changes from the pandemic. That said, we are lucky to have a number of tenured staff that have been with us for some time and are committed to the agency’s mission who stepped up to the plate in a difficult situation. In regards to recruitment, we have done some things to attract new employees such as a raise in our salaries for entry-level employees. We also have very good benefits and a flexible work schedule to balance home and work environments and needs of our employees. We currently have about 130 employees, which would include our full-time staff, part-time staff and per diem staff.

Q: Where does Catholic Charities get its money to operate the business?
A: For most of our residential programs we have state and county contracts, so that is our biggest funding stream, governmental funding. We also get a lot of financial help from the Syracuse diocese when they do their Hope for Appeal campaign. Additionally, we have private donors who have a fondness for our mission who contribute financially. Other sources are monies from the United Way and more recently we have received a great deal of support from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida counties. We also do several fundraising events throughout the year. Our annual operational budget is about $10 million.

Catholic Charities is located at 1408 Genesee St., Utica. To reach them call: 315-724-2158

“We are lucky to have a number of tenured staff that have been with us for some time and are committed to the agency’s mission who stepped up to the plate in a difficult situation. “