Transition to new delivery model underway for Catholic Charities

Through collaboration with the local community, more people will be served

ALLOUEZ — The goal for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay is to increase the number of people served per year from approximately 4,200 currently to 10,000 in four years. To achieve this mark requires a new service delivery model where Catholic Charities works alongside existing community resources and parish communities.

“If we want to (more than) double the amount of people we serve by the year 2025, how are we going to do that with 27 (staff members)?” said Karmen Lemke, director of Catholic Charities. “We are not going to do it alone. We are not going to solve all the needs, but we want to be the convener. We want to be a partner at the table side-by-side with the parishes, with other experts, really break down those needs, mesh those needs with the resources. It’s very grassroots.”

The transition to the new delivery model from the current medical model of helping people one-to-one in an office is underway through a pilot program in Vicariate I, which includes seven counties in the northern part of the diocese. Jesse Brunette, integrated crisis and community service coordinator for Catholic Charities, has made connections to better understand the needs and available resources in Vicariate I.

“COVID-19 has hampered the vision we laid out quite a bit,” he said. “When this rolled out, I envisioned myself jumping in my car and going parish-to-parish to meet as many people as possible. (Now) we have restrictions as diocesan employees.

“I have been spending a lot of time understanding the communities, driving up there, making visits, talking to a variety of people — congressman’s office, state legislators, county officials, the Salvation Army, civic clubs, rotary clubs. I’ve volunteered quite a bit at food pantries up north to understand their operations and how they are able to serve people. I’ve been on the phone a lot,” he added.

Antigo, Marinette and Lakewood have been the main focus of the pilot program. Catholic Charities has an office in Marinette to provide mental health counseling and operated an office in Antigo in the past.

“Ideally, we would love to have an office in every one of our communities, but that’s just not realistic,” said Brunette. “So now, we are trying to go to a church- and community-centered model where we go out to where the people are and see Catholics, parishes, apostolate groups and other organizations that share our vision. They want to help and participate in bringing services to a greater number of people.

“We don’t want to go in and assume that we know everything about the community and we are going to write a prescription for the community,” he added. “It’s the community which will dictate what they would like (to do) to serve the people in those communities. Catholic Charities will come in alongside the people. We will take the lead on certain things, like professional services, that we can provide as a staff.”

For example, Catholic Charities’ budget counseling is usually provided one-to-one in the Green Bay office. It’s not realistic to have a budget counseling office in every part of Vicariate 1. The professional Catholic Charities staff members, who are credentialed, trained and experienced in budget counseling, are able to train people within the communities who may have some experience and interest in those services.

“We provide the training, the coaching. Then, they facilitate workshops in the parishes,” said Brunette, who is featured in the 2021 Bishop’s Appeal video. “They are not out there alone. We can use our resources to assist them. More people will be served rather than us providing this on a one-to-one basis. This is exponential growth.”

Another example provided by Brunette involves an integrated crisis model to help people in times of need, such as a barn fire or the closing of a major manufacturing business that leaves people unemployed.

“People are going to need some financial assistance, some sort of counseling. They may need food to get through the month. They may need help paying their mortgage,” he said. “We are going to build a community base to help support the people who are going through that crisis.”

Mental health is a current crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19, he added. Virtual services from Catholic Charities can assist.

“A lot of these communities are looking to deliver mental health counseling in different ways, whether that be Zoom counseling or telehealth,” said Brunette. “We have to look at different ways we can assist with mental health counseling. Mental health first aid is one way where we train people at the parish level or community level to intervene in the short-term crisis that someone is facing.”  

The level of care and concern people express for their community has been affirming for Brunette in the early months of the process, he said. His focus has now shifted to the parishes.

“Parishes are extremely busy, so we don’t want to go into these communities and create an inconvenience for them where they feel that they now have to help Catholic Charities with this initiative,” he said. “We are going to do the work at Catholic Charities. We are going to involve as many people as possible. When the parishes are ready to assist, we would welcome their help.”

“We are not really good at mobilizing volunteers,” said Lemke. “Our parishes are better than we are. We want to figure that out in Catholic Charities, help develop more volunteers, build the capacity of the volunteer base.”

The new service delivery model mirrors the diocesan call to missionary discipleship, she added.

“Think about the traditional way we serve people today. Now we need to bring more missionaries, more disciples along with us to be those other hands and feet of Christ,” she said. “We cannot, alone, serve 10,000 people. We can if we mobilize and find other disciples to help us do that. They are out there.”

“We asked the Holy Spirit to lead us into a whole new service delivery model and early indications are that it’s working well,” said Brunette. “We are going to be able to serve more people, just in a different way.”

For more about the Bishop’s Appeal and Jesse Brunette’s work with Catholic Charities, visit