Baltimore leaders show the way


September 25, 2005

Baltimore is nationally known for the social problems it shares with other major cities -- to a large extent because its proximity to Washington makes it an easy photo-op site for presidents or others with political or social agendas to sell.

Less well known is Baltimore's fame as a home to some of the widely known and successful social problem-solvers in America.

Two organizational leaders stand out:

Ken Hackett, president,

Catholic Relief Services

Under Hackett's direction, Catholic Relief Services' 4,000 staff members in 90 countries around the world provide leadership in an wide range of programs aimed at improving the lives of millions of people who face threats from disease, malnutrition, violence and weather.

Founded in 1943 by Catholic bishops in America to assist in refugee relief during World War II, the agency has evolved into a sophisticated aid organization that lobbies Congress on global aid issues and promotes grass-roots economic development on several continents.

Catholic Relief added five lay members to its board of directors in 2004, and its energetic president, Hackett, was named one of two nongovernmental members of the Millennium Challenge Corporation board -- a presidential initiative aimed at improving the accountability and impact of foreign aid.

Last year Catholic Relief raised $108 million in private donations and used that money to leverage $436 million in revenues from government and other partners.

Among the agency's recent efforts: Provided food, medicine and other assistance to refugees in Darfur, Sudan, where hundreds of thousands died and more than 2 million remain homeless amid continued attacks by government-backed militias.

Helped lead a global effort to fight an HIV / AIDS pandemic in the developing world using three landmark U.S. government grants.

Played a leading role in providing emergency food, housing and other relief services following December's catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami.

Douglas W. Nelson, president, Annie E. Casey Foundation

Under Nelson's leadership, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has focused a spotlight on the problems of America's poorest children.

Its most recent "KIDS COUNT" data reported a significant increase since 1990 in the number of children -- 5.6 million -- in families of the working poor. In all, more than 14 million, or 21 percent of all kids under 18, live in poverty -- a higher proportion than in 1975, statistics gathered in the report show.

Casey grants have not just been used to detail the plight of poor kids; they have also gone in recent years to a wide range of not-for-profit community-based organizations in Baltimore and other cities that work directly with disadvantaged children, youth and families.

From its elegant Mount Vernon headquarters, Casey also funds efforts aimed at developing community leaders, encouraging journalists to cover poverty issues and promoting economic development in impoverished neighborhoods.

In a period when the problem of poverty in America has been pushed into the shadows, the publications and programs of the Casey Foundation have been viewed by advocates as a beacon of caring.

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