Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens:
A History of Compassionate Social Service
The history of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens runs deep and long. In the earliest decades of the nineteenth century, concerned Catholics came together to meet the needs of children orphaned in downtown Brooklyn by poverty and disease. As other needs arose, they sought ways to meet the need for food, clothing, education, and places in which to live, prosper and age gracefully and with dignity. By the end of the nineteenth century, the services being provided were so diverse and widespread that they required formal organization. In 1899, Bishop McDonald of Brooklyn appointed Monsignor William White to bring together all the diocesan charitable agencies into one organization and, officially, Catholic Charities was born.
Historically, Catholic Charities was concerned with the care and nurturing of orphans, and finding them suitable homes. Today, services cover the whole span of an individual’s life. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has grown into one of the largest multi-service agencies in the nation, while retaining its roots in the mission that guided its formation over one hundred years ago: to give parish and community members an opportunity to collaborate in meeting the needs of their neighbors. Catholic Charities’ community project directors meet with individuals and other local community organizations to assess prevailing issues and work to develop responses.
The two Catholic Charities Community Centers, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens, offer immediate services, including emergency food, limited financial assistance, GED and ESL classes, employment counseling and case management, and also provide access to the organization’s entire range of services.
At the Center for Pregnant Women, prenatal and postnatal mothers and their families get the support they need to foster healthy living for their little ones. Early Childhood Services offers comprehensive quality programs through Head Start and child care centers that are designed to foster the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of preschoolers in a safe environment. Parents are always welcome so that they can connect with their children and contribute to their early development.
The communities and families served by Catholic Charities are extremely diverse, and Family Services reflects that diversity. From prevention programs tailored for at-risk families to homeless prevention programs that help people in danger of losing their homes to refugee resettlement programs, Family Services programs were formed to help strengthen the family unit and help families stay together.
Older adult populations are large and varied, and Older Adult Services continues to grow and expand with them. For those who are more active, Catholic Charities helps maintain their mobility by offering nutrition and exercise programs at senior centers, and for the more frail elderly, home delivered meals and programs for those suffering from dementia. No matter what their needs are, interaction with peers and a warm, caring staff helps break the isolation and loneliness often experienced by older adults. For over 40 years, Catholic Charities’ Services for People with Developmental Disabilities has helped individuals with special needs maximize their potential and brought peace of mind to their families.
The agency provides clinical and psychological services, residential services and day services in a nurturing environment. Serving an equally sensitive population, Behavioral Health Services offers a wide range of programs for those having emotional difficulties and those suffering from severe mental illness, including individual and family counseling and crisis intervention at clinics and guidance centers.
It all comes back to having a place to call home.
With over 3,500 units of affordable housing, Catholic Charities remains committed to providing safe and affordable homes for older adults, families and persons with special needs, and continues to advocate for affordable housing in local communities so that those who have helped build the neighborhoods can remain in them. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is dedicated to working with its neighbors, keeping a tradition of community outreach and advocacy that is a hallmark of its continuing mission to the neediest among us.