Our story begins on August 16, 1934 at Columbus Hall in Oakland. On that date, Archbishop John J. Mitty of the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced the union of 36 Catholic aid agencies in the East Bay into one: The Affiliated Catholic Charities of Alameda County. Father Joseph P. Mulkern was given the task of leading the new agency and ensuring a coordinated effort to help the many people in desperate need during the depression.
Father Mulkern immediately set to work organizing the agency, and by 1935 was able to begin operations. One of his first acts was to hire Miss Alice McCarthy as his assistant, the first non-clergy staff member of Catholic Charities.
Services in the early years concentrated on helping families in extreme need and orphan children, who were cared for and placed in foster home and institutions. However, Catholic Charities would almost immediately demonstrate a commitment to Social Justice, by assisting the City of Berkeley in organizing a counter protest to a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1935.
In 1938, the Theresians of Holy Names College formed an auxiliary, to help Father Mulkern organize Christmas parties for underprivileged children. This became the forerunner of today’s Alameda and Contra Costa Ladies Auxiliaries – a vital resource for volunteer and fundraising efforts.
Through the war years, Catholic Charities continued to offer professional social services. We also joined in the war effort, organizing blood drives and providing hospitality to service members going or returning from overseas. In 1945, the agency’s name was changed to Catholic Social Service of Alameda County.
In 1958, members of the Theresian Club of Holy Names College formally organized the Ladies Auxiliary of Catholic Charities of the East Bay. These wonderful supporters helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and devoted countless hours of their time to help to lessen the burden of poverty in the East Bay.
In 1962, the two counties of Alameda and Contra Costa became the new Diocese of Oakland under the leadership of Bishop Floyd L. Begin. One of his first appointments was to select Father (later Monsignor) John T. McCracken, as the first Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities. Under his direction, Catholic Charities developed new programs and modernized facilities and operations. In 1965 we had a new name and a permanent home when the offices at 433 Jefferson Street in Oakland were dedicated and Monsignor McCracken gave Catholic Charities its current title.
During the 70’s and 80’s, Catholic Charities responded to the changing community of the East Bay. In 1971, following riots at San Quentin and Attica, we began the Prison and Community Justice program. The influx of refugees from Southeast Asia following the Vietnam War prompted us to launch the Refugee Resettlement and Employment program. Catholic Charities of the East Bay responded to the Loma Prieta Earthquake with a special appeal for funds and immediate action to assist survivors.
In the 90’s Catholic Charities pioneered services with another segment of our community, by instituting HIV/AIDS housing services to fight discrimination in housing. We also addressed the issue of school violence towards gay and lesbian youth through the Safe Schools Project, and reached out to disaffected Catholics in the gay and lesbian community through an outreach task force.
In 2001, following the tragic dog mauling of a young boy in Richmond, Catholic Charities of the East Bay stepped in immediately to provide the case management service necessary during the child’s long recovery. We were the only agency able to demonstrate the level of skills needed to deal with this difficult situation.
In 2006, Catholic Charities of the East Bay teamed with the City of Oakland to fight the effects of violence in the most troubled neighborhoods. Responding to the effects of violence, we formed staff and volunteer teams that react immediately to murders in the community, providing critical assistance to families that have been tragically affected by community violence.
Today, we continue to help people facing difficult circumstances so that they can move forward in life with greater independence. Our programs include:
- Immigration legal services so that people can live and work without fear and refugee resettlement services for people fleeing violence or persecution;
- Financial assistance for qualified families and seniors facing eviction; family literacy programs to help people gain skills that improve opportunity;
- Crisis counseling, victim support, restorative practices, and training to help individuals, families and schools in the aftermath of homicide or pervasive violence; support for children overcoming the trauma of trafficking.