As one of the longest-running charities in Arizona, Catholic Charities Community Services continues the mission it started when it first began in 1933: To affirm dignity in all people, from the outcasts and marginalized, to those experiencing trauma and pain.
“People who have been marginalized—they are, in many ways, God coming to us,” says Paul Mulligan, president and CEO of the organization. “We can’t see him, but we can see him in that neighbor.”
For 84 years, Catholic Charities has been dedicated to advocating for and supporting vulnerable children, families and individuals. The organization is the charitable services arm of the Diocese of Phoenix, led by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, and provides services for communities in central and northern Arizona, including Maricopa, Yavapai, Coconino and Mohave counties. According to Mulligan, the organization focuses on three main service areas: shelter and housing, strengthening families, and nurturing youth.
“We provide shelter through a variety of projects,” says Mulligan. “We have a domestic violence shelter called My Sister’s Place in the East Valley; a transitional living facility for veterans in Phoenix called MANA House; and Juniper House, a home in Flagstaff for women coming out of the Yavapai and Coconino county jails.”
In addition, Catholic Charities has affordable housing properties all over the Valley, designed for low-income families.
“Providing housing is an integral part of our mission because it not only provides shelter for families, it also helps strengthen them,” Mulligan says. “We are all about supporting family structures, stabilizing them and giving them the support they need.”
To support this mission, Catholic Charities is significantly involved with such programs as Westside Head Start, which provides early childhood education and parenting skills, and the North Star Youth Partnership, which helps build self-confidence and leadership skills in young people.
“What we try to do in almost every program we operate is to move people who are at risk, vulnerable or at crisis—through such things as housing drug treatment, education and workforce development—to a place where they’re thriving,” says Mulligan.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ We’re all about teaching a man to fish,” he continues.
While Catholic Charities’ service areas may seem somewhat daunting to tackle, Mulligan credits its staff of 450 employees and estimated 4,500 volunteers throughout Arizona, and the partnerships the organization has forged with the local community.
“There are so many organizations and businesses in Phoenix and Arizona that do great service work,” he says. “The reality is, we don’t have to do everything. We recognize where our strengths are and we can focus on those. The rest, we can call on the partnerships we have and work with them.”
One of those businesses is National Bank of Arizona, the organization’s bank since 2009.
“It’s very clear NB|AZ is a values-driven bank,” says Mulligan, citing the bank’s foster care tax credit, which redirects state tax liability into opportunities for low-income families. In addition, NB|AZ is helping Catholic Charities expand its housing impact through credit and loan programs.
“We think we’re great providers because we really serve the whole community, regardless of faith or background,” Mulligan says. “God is doing a lot of miracles through us. We like to say we’re where miracles happen every day.”