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Office move benefits two charities


Ramon Calzada

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) moved its administrative offices Dec. 1 into Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center in Omaha, providing additional opportunities for the two organizations to coordinate help for the needy.

The society provides parish-based assistance focused on visits to people’s homes and emergency help with rent, utilities, transportation and other needs. SVdP also runs four thrift stores and a food pantry in Omaha, and a food pantry and thrift store in Columbus.

Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Archdiocese of Omaha, provides services including micro-business counseling, immigration legal assistance, food pantries and programs for families and the elderly.

"It’s our hope that by having them at the Juan Diego Center we’d have a greater opportunity in partnering with them in terms of families we collectively serve," said John Griffith, executive director of Catholic Charities. "Between the two of us, we could provide much more comprehensive case management."

Strengthening their already-existing collaboration also would track with Archbishop George J. Lucas’ new pastoral plan, which among other initiatives emphasizes reaching out to people in works of mercy, Griffith said.

Other changes for the SVdP include a new executive director, Ramon Calzada.

Hired effective Sept. 15, Calzada said he has several goals, including renovating the society’s food pantry and other offices in downtown Omaha to create a more centralized headquarters.

Meanwhile, SVdP was looking to move its administrative offices out of leased space in Omaha, and the need for new offices was mentioned in early September as the society and Catholic Charities touched base about their collaborative efforts to help the needy.

Officials with Catholic Charities invited members of the society to look at the Juan Diego Center, and the society moved into the center this month.

Calzada said coordination of services with Catholic Charities could be advanced by being at the center, and locating in south Omaha will help SVdP expand its reach into parishes with large Latino populations.

Other goals for Calzada include expanding SVdP’s network of thrift stores and promoting unity among the society’s more than 30 parish-based conferences in Omaha and its conferences in Norfolk and Columbus.

Calzada, a native of Puerto Rico, is not new to Omaha.

He graduated from Creighton University in 1990 and taught for two years at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart and three years at Creighton Preparatory School.

He entered the Jesuit formation program, but after about 10 years decided he didn’t have a call to the priesthood. He moved to Los Angeles and among other endeavors ran a homeless shelter and founded a bilingual leadership formation firm.

After a dozen years in California, it was time to move back to his second home – Omaha – where he has family, Calzada said. Looking for work and an opportunity to continue serving others, he applied for the opening at SVdP, Calzada said.

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