History of Catholic Social Services
The introductory first meeting of the Catholic Service League was held May 8, 1919 in the Knights of Columbus rooms. Colonel A.C. Wallace from Columbus, who was with the National Catholic War Council (NCWC), had come to explain the future work of the NCWC after World War I. He suggested that the Knights of Columbus have a peacetime program for youth that was similar to the program that was for youth during wartime. The Knights of Columbus were not equipped to organize a social service program. Reverend Richard Dowed, pastor of Annunciation Church, became very interested in the project, as did Michael O'Neil, who went on to sponsor the project. O'Neil had developed the M. O'Neil Department Store and was considered by McQueeney as "the outstanding wealthiest Catholic layman in the community".
The organizational meeting of the Catholic Service League was held August 20, 1919 at the Knights of Columbus rooms. O'Neil acted as chairman and McQueeney as secretary, and a constitution and by-laws were adopted. The by-laws provided for affiliation with the National Catholic War Council since the start up money came from the Bishop's War Fund. Thus, Catholic Service League was born! The Executive Committee consisted of O'Neil as President, McQueeney as Vice President, Reverend R.C. Kotheimer of St. Bernard's as Secretary, and Reverend Thorpe of St. Vincent's as Treasurer. In September of 1919, Mary D. Kearns, a social worker, was sent by the National Catholic War Council to be the first employee of Catholic Service League. The Executive Committee rented the building at 277-279 South High Street in Akron from St. Bernard's parish to house the agency. On July 26, 1920, Father H.C. LeBlond, Diocesan Director of Charities, gave official approval of the Catholic Service League and affiliation with the Catholic Charities Corporation.
In the early fall of 1920, the Executive Committee decided to reorganize on a laymen basis of business management and incorporate. On October 12, 1920, pastors and delegations from the parishes approved the reorganized constitution and regulations. The incorporators were Joseph Dangel, J.M. Doran, Charles Ley, Edward McQueeney and Thomas Walsh. The officers of the Catholic Service League Board were elected December 12, 1920. William Walsh was elected President, Charles Ley, Vice President; Edward McQueeney Secretary/Treasurer. Walsh and McQueeney assumed the responsibility of managing the Catholic Service League in order to "develop cooperation in the community and to effect a business management" according to McQueeney. On November 16, 1921, McQueeney was appointed by the Board as the first Executive Secretary of Catholic Service League.
In 1929, during the Great Depression, Catholic Service League continued to center its services on physical assistance to families and to maintain the dignity of the families who turned to the agency for assistance. In 1930, the Catholic Service League moved its offices to 282 West Market Street in Akron. Several years later, in 1933, the Barberton Catholic Welfare Society was established to serve the residents of the Barberton area.
In October of 1937, Reverend James O'Brien, who was the Diocesan Director of Catholic Youth Organization, officially coordinated the merging of the Catholic Service League program and the Catholic Youth Organization. By 1937, the Catholic Service League was the largest Catholic agency of its kind outside a Diocesan Center in the United States. There was a staff of 15 persons and one of the most active C.Y.O. programs in the Cleveland Diocese.
From 1930 to 1939, Catholic Service League occupied the Werner Mansion at 282 West Market Street, next to the Knights of Columbus Hall. The Knights of Columbus, who had been actively involved in the formation of the Catholic Service League in 1919, owned the Werner Mansion at the time. The Knights of Columbus Hall was used for CYO basketball. In the fall, boys used to play touch football on the tennis courts behind the mansion's coach house. Joseph Adelman (a retired captain from the Navy) lived in the Werner Mansion with his mother, Mary Grace, the bookkeeper for Catholic Service League. Captain Adelman described the building as having "beautiful carved woodwork (some imported from Germany), inlaid wood floors, stained glass windows, marble bathrooms and a music room that had purple velvet on the ceiling to absorb sounds". There was a turret built especially for one of the Werner sons, and artist, on the outside of the house. Captain Adelman recalled his mother's preparations for the Christmas parties for the wards of Catholic Service League. He remembered answering the door in the middle of the night to families who were hungry during the Depression- those families were given meal tickets for a diner at the corner of Howard Street and Main Street. When the Knights of Columbus ran into debt around 1939 and lost the Hall, they also lost the Mansion. A church purchased it and had it knocked down. There is a parking lot there now.
In 1940, Catholic Service League moved from the Werner Mansion to 138 Fir Hill. Foster care, adoptions and in home services to families were a major focus of service, as well as services to unmarried mothers. Services were also provided to the elderly in order to assist them as well as their families in planning for long term care. Casework was the tool to preserve and strengthen family life.
In the 1950s, Catholic Service League added more intensive counseling services to its list. Marriage counseling, individual personality problems, budgetary problems, and parent-child problems were the focus.
Homemaker service was developed in 1957 as another means of preserving the family when the serious illness or hospitalization of the mother threatened family unity. A trained homemaker was placed in the home during the father’s working hours so that the children could be kept together in their own home. During 1957, eight families received this service for two to five weeks. By 1966, that number reached twenty-six.
In 1967 and 1968, there were many major changes for the Catholic Service League. Because of the client size of both agencies, CYO separated from the Catholic Service League. The Barberton Catholic Welfare agency merged with Catholic Service League. There was a branch office of CSL opened in Northfield. Volunteer services were launched and the Women’s Auxiliary Board was formed.
The number of families and individuals receiving services jumped from 1200 in 1967 to over 4400 in 1968 and it was apparent that changes needed to be made.
An analysis in the early part of 1967 revealed the need of additional services and expansion of current services for the community. This led to the biggest change in 1968 for Catholic Service League – the move from Fir Hill to 640 North Main Street.
Catholic Service League was growing rapidly. An analysis in the early part of 1967 revealed the need for additional services and expansion of current services for the community.
The CYO and Catholic Service League separated in 1967 because of the client size of each agency. CYO continued with its program of character building and youth activities, while Catholic Service League continued to develop its program with family and children, giving casework services in the area of counseling, adoption, unmarried parents, aging and family life education.
The Northfield office of Catholic Service League was launched as a pilot project in 1967 because parishes in the northern part of Summit County requested services "closer to home".
Answering the need for volunteer services, the Auxiliary Women’s Board of Catholic Service League was formed in 1967. Edward McCormick, Board of Trustees president, had this to say: "The response has been tremendous. Their interest exceptional. Their involvement already stimulating and challenging. We take great pride in our charter members of the Catholic Service League Auxiliary Board." The Christ Child Society worked with the Women’s Board and furnished layettes for the babies awaiting adoption. For 28 years, the agency had been located in what was at one time a beautiful residence. In light of the activities and needs for the agency, the building at 138 Fir Hill was far from adequate. Renovation and changes were impossible due to the age and type of structure. In the summer of 1968, Catholic Service League moved to a new location at 640 North Main Street.
The new location had a first among family agencies in Akron – a training facility providing observation of treatment in the area of group counseling and therapy, primarily for staff training and education.
Services to the community remained consistent: aid to families, individuals and children; family counseling, work with unmarried mothers, counsel and planning for senior citizens, foster home care for dependent and orphaned infants and children, and adoption services.
The year 1970 celebrated the silver anniversary for Catholic Service League. Andrew Imperial, the Board president, noted in the 1970 Annual Report that "As a community agency, dedicated to respond to human needs we will continue to award high priority to our programs for the client in need of rehabilitation, the disorganized family, the disabled marriage, the dependent neglected child, the unwed parents and the aged. The Catholic Service League will continue to serve these groups and develop programs to meet the needs of the black and biracial child, the drug abuser and the multi-deficient family." In 1971, Catholic Service League established service programs in a number of public elementary and secondary schools. Another new service that was added was the Family Life Education program. The agency was renowned for its cross-racial adoptions and actively searching for adoptive homes for black and biracial babies. The "Social Service Sisters", Sister Kathleen Kovach and Sister Timea Riszt, went out into the community and knocked on doors in black and mixed neighborhoods to explain the agency’s services and spread the word that black families are needed for adoptive homes. Catholic Service League also received community recognition for its work in finding homes for children with special needs.
Throughout the 70s, the Catholic Service League continued to focus on the needs of the growing client population and of the community.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Catholic Service League developed and participated in programs that were innovative and conformed to the needs of the community. In 1986, Catholic Service League was involved in the Family Recovery Center at Akron Children’s Hospital – Medical Center. Staff from Catholic Service League and other area agencies worked with families dealing with sexual abuse and also with sexual offenders. In 1987, Catholic Service League started the AIDS Holistic Support Services Program to assist persons with AIDS, AIDS-related complex or viral infection and co-sponsored Summit County’s first AIDS support group. The group was designed to be a source of support as well as information, such as preventing the spread of AIDS, medical treatment, social services and financial support. Persons whose lives were touched by AIDS, whether they themselves were infected or had a friend or family member who was infected, were able to have a safe place to turn to in their time of need. Counseling and advocacy were also offered to help face the growing problem of AIDS.
In August of 1987, the Family Service America executive vice president applauded Catholic Service League for its active role in working with persons suffering from AIDS and their families: "Your agency is clearly on the cutting edge of a direction which Family Service agencies will need to follow in the coming years. It is particularly commendable that Catholic Service League has entered into this program area on the basis of conscience rather than funding."
In the fall of 1987, Catholic Service League provided training to people who wanted to be volunteer "buddies" to persons with AIDS. Volunteers would run errands, perform household chores and cook meals in addition to providing friendship to patients who were deserted by their families and friends. The first group of volunteers, who completed the three all-day training sessions included men, women, gays and heterosexuals, a man who had AIDS and a woman whose son had AIDS. By February of 1988, Catholic Service League had trained 22 buddies and signed up 25 more people for the following session. At that time, there were about 50 people with AIDS or HIV in the Akron, Canton, Youngstown, and Warren areas.
By the beginning of 1989, there were 100 recorded cases of people infected with the AIDS virus in Summit County alone. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also praised the efforts of Catholic Service League, saying that "Catholic Service League showed us that it has the ideas and the energy that Northeastern Ohio needs to confront AIDS in its own back yard". The grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding for a coordinator and three outreach workers to establish support groups and case management teams throughout the area. Teams consisted of doctors, dentists, social workers, attorneys and others who could help AIDS patients.
In 1992, the Beacon Journal reported that "Catholic Service League was the only state-recognized AIDS program in Summit County and had won virtually every award available".
In February of 1992, Micah House, a home for persons with AIDS, opened in Highland Square. It was designed so that the AIDS patients would not have to spend their last months in a hospital because there wear no low-cost housing available to them. Micah House had room for 5 residents, but before its doors opened, over a dozen people had applied.
July of 1992 was the first fundraiser for the AIDS Holistic Support Services. More than $10,000 was raised to be used for client needs of transportation, food, clothing, and medical care , which was distributed through Catholic Service League projects such as Violet’s Cupboard.
In 1993, there were over 106,000 reported cases of AIDS in the United States.; however, by 1994, funding was difficult to find and the AIDS Holistic Support Services Program at Catholic Service League ended. A total of 1522 people from Ohio died from AIDS in 1995 & 1996.
During this time, Catholic Service League still provided others in the community with counseling, emergency assistance, and home based services. In 1992, the Catholic Service League stopped offering adoption and foster care services because young, pregnant unwed mothers chose to keep and raise their children themselves. To respond to that change, Catholic Service League created Project Opportunity, a program that provided information, referrals and support that teen-age parents needed to raise healthy children. Along that same vein, Catholic Service League’s first parenting classes started in 1995. Parents were taught how to deal with a child’s emotions and behaviors. Parents learned to communicate effectively with their children as well as discipline them. Catholic Service League was continuing to follow the trends of the nation and the needs of the community.
In 1996, the complexity of challenges faced by families and individuals in contemporary society resulted in the need for services that were holistic, integrated, and comprehensive. In order to provide the community with a better understanding of the services offered by Catholic Service League, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name to Catholic Social Services of Summit County. In February of 1998, the Board of Trustees of the agency, realizing that families and individuals have a reality greater than the sum of their parts, approved a method of service delivery of family support services through a Family Center concept – a concept that recognized the benefits of a holistic approach to families and their members.
Today we still serve the poorest of the poor and the neediest of the needy in Summit County. We help parents raise their children, prevent child abuse and neglect, provide guidance and counseling to overstressed individuals. We provide hot meals to the homeless and needy and teach children how to use their time productively. We’re Catholic Social Services of Summit County, and we’re proud to serve the people of our community
In 2010, Catholic Social Services merged with CYO and Community Services.
In 2011, CYO and Community Services was renamed Catholic Charities Community Services of Summit County.