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Our History





All About Help and Just About Everywhere...

Catholic Charities began in 1917, when a group of Catholic businessmen petitioned Cardinal Mundelein to create a central Catholic charity in Chicago to relieve the burden on Catholic  parishes, which were struggling to meet the needs of the poor in their communities. World War I had  just ended, the Spanish Influenza Epidemic was sweeping the globe, and immigrants were arriving daily in a city growing by leaps and bounds. The organization was chartered in January 1918, and Cardinal Mundelein addressed the 200 board members at their first annual meeting in April of the following year. He reported on the agency’s immediate success in raising funds and serving the poor: “During the past 12 months, 50,000 people in this city and diocese have contributed their money, their time and their services that we might efficiently carry out these works of mercy, that we might feed the hungry, nurse the sick, protect the orphan, shelter the homeless and help the poor in our midst.”

Changing Over Time with the Needs of the Poor

During the Great Depression, Catholic Charities was a key partner in a city- wide effort to aid families struggling to survive prolonged unemployment. Along with helping people access private and public “relief” programs, the agency became well-known for feeding the hungry and caring for orphans and children of unwed mothers, as well as the mothers themselves. By 1945, a group of 48 individual program sites fell under the auspices of Catholic Charities.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, Catholic Charities grew and changed to reflect societal needs and trends. During the "War on Poverty" years of the 1960s, the agency began to provide Head Start services. In the 1980s Catholic Charities became one of the largest providers of foster care and other child welfare services in the area.

Through the 1990s and into the 21st century, the agency grew its programming for seniors, and built many affordable residences for this population. At the same time, Catholic Charities partnered with state and federal programs on a new model for distributing food and social services through Women, Infants and Children (WIC) centers in Chicago. Along with the new initiatives, the agency continued to provide emergency assistance, counseling, addiction services, and employment and training.

Today, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is one of the largest private, non-profit social service agencies in the Midwest, annually assisting more than one million people, without regard to religious, ethnic or economic background. We offer 150 programs at 164 locations across Cook and Lake counties. Our programs are organized into five service areas which cover human needs from “cradle to grave” and every point in between. And, 92 cents of every dollar we raise goes directly to our programs.

Often people in need are facing multiple challenges and need a holistic approach to reach stability. Our broad range of programming, professional staff, and scores of dedicated volunteers allow us to reach out and embrace many of the area’s poor and to walk with them for as long as they need us, with the goal of helping them become as self-sufficient as possible.
 

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Phone: (312) 655-7525
Email: donations@catholiccharities.net 
Mail:
721 N. LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60654