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Shane and Dee Marik of Omaha look at a photograph in the Catholic Charities Omaha exhibit on display at The Durham Museum in Omaha.Photo by Lisa Maxson/For the Catholic Voice

Durham exhibit showcases service of Catholic Charities

Minutes from board meetings. Adoption papers from St. James Orphanage. Old photographs.

These are just a few of the items on display in the exhibit, "90 Years of Hope and Compassion: Catholic Charities Omaha" at The Durham Museum in Omaha. Running now through Sept. 25, the exhibit highlights the 90th anniversary of Catholic Charities and its impact on the Omaha community.

Catholic Charities serves men, women and children, regardless of religion, and it is one of Nebraska’s largest private providers of social services. It serves 65,000 individuals a year with mental health and drug counseling, emergency shelter for domestic abuse victims, food pantry, adoption and other services.

Jessica Brummer, director of marketing and public relations at the Durham, said the Catholic Charities exhibit fits in with the museum’s mission to share the history of Omaha.

"Groups like Catholic Charities are a huge part of that story," she said. "We are thrilled to be able to share that through this exhibit."

Emily Kozlik, development director for Catholic Charities Omaha, said the exhibit is a way to share the agency’s history beyond the Catholic community.

"We’re celebrating 90 years of doing good work and responding to the issues of the time," Kozlik said.

"When you come to us, if you have other needs, we can move you within the agency to meet as many of the needs as you have," she said. "It’s the tradition of caring and quality that have made this agency last this long."

Since 1926, Catholic Charities has served and advocated for voiceless, hungry, addicted, abused and forgotten individuals and families.

Formed as a social service agency when several small Catholic charities joined efforts at the request of the Community Chest – the predecessor to the United Way of the Midlands – Catholic Charities first focused at St. James Orphanage in Omaha on adoption and caring for homeless children during the Great Depression. But as needs changed, such as growing drug abuse and domestic violence, so did services the agency provided.

Food assistance and family strengthening, low-income housing and behavioral health services were added in the 1970s and continue today. In the 1990s, Catholic Charities took on immigration legal services and microbusiness training and development, and programs to help stem family violence and protect its victims. The 2000s saw the addition of a substance abuse evaluation and treatment center and a mentoring program for pregnant women.

It’s service now extends beyond Omaha to Columbus and other areas of the archdiocese.

John Griffith, executive director, said for 90 years the agency has worked to build community, strengthen families and bring Christ’s love to those who are suffering.

"This work has been done by extraordinary people who have brought commitment, passion and tireless energy in helping the people of God to find hope in their own lives," he said. "For these many decades, in partnership with our supporters, we have carried out the corporal works of mercy in this ever evolving, challenging world."

Want to Go?

Exhibit is on The Durham Museum’s lower level and open during museum hours. Admission is $11 for adults; $8 for seniors; $7 for children 3-12; and free for members and children 2 and under.

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