MARINETTE — A recent physical office transition is supporting the shift to a church- and community-centered delivery model for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay.
On Dec. 1, 2021, the Marinette office of Catholic Charities moved from its location in a historic building on Dunlap Avenue to a new office suite on Hall Avenue.
“The (Dunlap) office served us well for over five years,” said Jesse Brunette, integrated crisis and community service coordinator for Catholic Charities. “We are looking at adding staff and resources at the Marinette office, so we felt it was necessary to find a space that met our needs.”
The Marinette office is staffed by Debra Mullen, mental health counselor, and Brooke Mullins, administrative assistant. The new office has space to add another therapist and its open layout allows for the creation of new work areas.
“There is cubicle space, so when we have traveling employees from Catholic Charities (Green Bay), we can drive up there and work out of the Marinette office,” said Brunette.
Marinette is part of Vicariate 1 in the Diocese of Green Bay. The vicariate is 5,300-square miles in area, half of the entire diocese, but makes up only 14% of the population.
“Many people (in Vicariate 1, northern part of the diocese) live in small towns, it’s rural and it’s wooded,” said Brunette. “The challenge is how to reach that entire region.”
“Companions on the Journey” is one of the 10 themes of the Synod on Synodality. Through a pilot program, Brunette made parish and community connections in Vicariate 1 to develop a new service delivery model for Catholic Charities. The goal is to increase the number of people served to 10,000 by 2025 — more than double. The delivery model involves Catholic Charities working alongside existing parish and community resources. The new Marinette office will support work in the region, said Brunette.
“It was about finding a space that will allow some of our employees and, potentially, volunteers to use that office as a bit of a hub as we go out into the mission field,” he said. “It’s easier to have that office that we can rely on to do work and hold sessions. We have a conference room table and can hold meetings there. The space meets our current needs and leaves us better positioned for future growth.”
Prior to its Dunlap Avenue location, the Marinette office of Catholic Charities was housed on Pierce Avenue. In addition to Marinette and the Green Bay office, Catholic Charities also operates an office in Menasha.
“At one point, we had an outreach office in Niagara. We had an outreach office in Antigo, in Sturgeon Bay. … Our goal is to provide coverage for the entire diocese, but not necessarily through physical Catholic Charities offices,” said Brunette. “We would much rather utilize those resources directly into the communities by being more mobile and creative in how we serve the community.”
The new Marinette office has been well-received by clients, said Mullins, who has worked for Catholic Charities for nearly five years.
“They love the new office. It has a skylight in the center of the room. It’s nice because you get that extra bit of light shining through,” she said.
“At the other building, as far as wheelchair access, people had to go upstairs through the elevator. This is all one level,” she added. “It’s safer that way.”
“Parking is right here, so people don’t have to cross the street,” said Mullen, who has worked at the Marinette office for 16 years.
Mullen said that clients travel from surrounding areas, including Crandon and Suring, for example. The office also serves people from Upper Michigan. COVID-19 heightened the counseling needs for many, she said.
“I’ve seen more depression and anxiety related not just to having to stay inside so long, but also deaths,” she said. “People have lost family members. The changes in school policies, school activities being canceled, also led to a lot more anxiety and a lot more depression. There has also been a greater need for couples counseling.”
The public is welcome to see the new office, located at 3900 Hall Ave., Marinette, at an open house Tuesday, April 19. Community partners will visit from 3 to 5 p.m. Fr. Celestine Byekwaso, pastor at Holy Family Parish, Marinette, will give a special blessing at 4 p.m. All are welcome for the Marinette/Menominee Chamber After Hours Event from 5 to 7 p.m.
Mullins said that she looks forward to serving as “the welcoming committee” for the event. Mullen will provide guests with information about the counseling services offered.
While Catholic Charities offices are not planned for other communities, numerous regional teams will be formed to serve neighboring communities.
“The team approach allows us to extend our services, for Catholic Charities to serve the community and also engage the Catholic community to serve the people within their parish boundaries,” said Brunette.
“You can’t reach the entire region by offices,” he added. “You have to do it by this innovative model where you engage the parish community and the community partners that includes government and nonprofits.”