Foundation in action: Father Ed Judy House
By Jean Torkelson
Gerald “Bud” Laber, the soon-to-retire president and CEO of The Catholic Foundation, sums up the foundation’s mission in five words: “We exist to help others.”
Nowhere is that more poignantly true than at the Father Ed Judy House, a haven for homeless single mothers and children that literally exists today only because the foundation stepped in to fund it.
In the economic chaos of 2008, government funding vanished and the Father Ed Judy House was on the verge of collapse. No one knew that better than Jonathan Reyes, head of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese, which administers the program.
“If it was not for The Catholic Foundation (the house) would not be open, and that’s not an exaggeration,” Reyes said.
But the crisis proved to be an excellent test of the goal that Laber had set during his five years of foundation leadership: “Identify the organization with needs, and connect it with the people who have the means.”
The foundation intentionally reaches out to donors to help them discern where, among hundreds of archdiocesan programs, they can help best—whether it’s bridging the pay gap for Catholic teachers, contributing $650,000 a year to support inner-city Catholic schools, identifying the needs of retired priests, or saving the Father Ed Judy House.
Today, Laber credits the foundation’s vigorous outreach and bridge building, and sound investment strategy, for helping it to achieve national ranking among the top three foundations of its kind in assets.
Free to help
Donor support didn’t just save the Father Ed Judy House, it reinvigorated it. Freed of government intervention, it can now meet the needs of each family as individuals, unfettered by regulatory deadlines and bureaucratic restrictions.
“Faith-based funding allows us to walk with these families as long as they need,” said Wendy Oldenbrook, program director. “We don’t have to show ‘self sufficiency’ in 30 days; we aren’t responding to ‘funders,’ but to client need. And what they need is someone who cares about them.”
Caring has led to success. Clients never “leave” the program but share an ongoing familial relationship with staff. Today, 43 families are part of the house’s pilot “alumni program,” which means they escaped homelessness and have lived independently in their own homes for the past two years. Ironically, the house recently received a government award from a poverty reduction task force for its promising record.
For Laber and the foundation, such success stories speak for themselves.
“Hopefully,” he said, “people will see that in the Catholic community we serve the underserved, and we take care of people.”
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister