Mccarthy Takes Helm At Catholic Charities

Programs Employ 2,000, Have $125 Million Budget

August 02, 2009|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,

With a new executive director taking over for the first time in more than three decades, now, traditionally, would be the time to consider new directions that Catholic Charities might take.

But Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, who chairs the board that oversees the organization, is planning to take an "if it ain't broke ..." approach as William J. McCarthy Jr., former Sun Trust Bank Greater Baltimore president, succeeds Harold A. "Hal" Smith as executive director.

"I don't think that there's a Catholic Charities program throughout the country to match ours," says O'Brien, spiritual leader of the area's 500,000 Catholics. "In my first two months here, I spent a few days every week traveling throughout the archdiocese, and every human need is being met with tremendous dedication, not just by the programs, but by the people that I met who are administering those programs.

"There's great loyalty to the ministry, and I think that is largely the example and inspiration of Hal."

This weekend marked the end of an era at Catholic Charities - and, perhaps, the start of a new one. Smith has held the position since 1976, a 33-year tenure that saw the organization grow from a few hundred employees and a $6 million budget to more than 2,000 employees and a $125 million budget.

Catholic Charities, which employs and serves people regardless of faith, runs 80 programs that assist more than 160,000 people in Baltimore city and eight counties, manages 1,800 units of housing for seniors and serves a quarter-million meals annually at Our Daily Bread in Baltimore.

The organization relies on the contributions of 10,000 volunteers and 20,000 donors to provide help in areas as diverse as adoption and addiction services, mental health treatment and meals for the homeless, Head Start and adult day services.

Smith, for his part, expects McCarthy to preside over further growth.

"I know that Bill is absolutely up for this," he says. "And his skills will take the agency I know to a much higher level than where we are now."

McCarthy, 48, brings experience in finance and law - he earned a law degree and a master of laws in taxation from the University of Baltimore. His connection to Catholic Charities goes back to his student days at Loyola High School, when he volunteered in agency programs to fulfill community service requirements.

He describes the decision to leave banking for Catholic Charities as an opportunity to give back to the city in which he was raised and has himself raised a family.

"I was at the point in my career where I was reflecting on how I could make a difference every day," he says.

McCarthy takes over at a difficult time for nonprofits. The recession has flattened charitable giving just as it has driven an increase in need.

McCarthy has set 14 goals for his start at the organization, including visiting every program and reaching out to donors and volunteers. He says he plans to draw on expertise already in place.

"I'm very fortunate that we have a very senior team," he says. "That really helps drive the organization."

Among the resources on which he can rely: Smith. While McCarthy took over as executive director Saturday, Smith will stay on full-time through the end of the year to assist in the transition.

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