Sad, but grateful, farewell to Open Doors Career Center

July 15, 2011|By Patrice Dirican, pdirican@theaegis.com

It was with sadness that I learned of the imminent closing of Open Doors Career Center after a story that ran July 1 in our paper, which stated that the nonprofit organization was forced to officially dissolve as of June 30 in response to budget cuts over the past few years.

I don't know a lot about the agency, but was compelled to take a closer look after hearing the news that Open Doors would be shutting its doors.

Founded in 1979, the center originally served displaced homemakers and at-home moms and over the next three decades expanded its programs to serve teens and seniors.

The vision of Open Doors, as stated on its website: " … that we provide a haven in which individuals who need life and employment skills can find their dreams. Every aspect of our work is guided by our core values of dignity, respect, integrity, trust and equality."

"I was devastated by the whole thing," said Mary Ann Bogarty, vice president, PNC Business Banking, and a board member with Open Doors since 2002, in an interview this week, of the board's recent decision.

Bogarty said the center is currently facing funding cuts of up to 65 percent which made it impossible to continue to operate.

"There were tough decisions to be made," said Bogarty, who explained that most of the money Open Doors received came from the federal government.

Everyone I've talked to who is connected with running the operation seemed echo Bogarty's deep sense of loss.

"The work that they have done has been extraordinary and necessary," said Gina Kazimir, former Open Doors board member and president of PR Right Now.

It is estimated that Open Doors has served more than 14,000 women since it was established.

Mary Ann Bogarty recalled a particularly poignant story of how one woman, who had recently become widowed and also suffered the death of one of her children, was helped by the organization's Women's Employment Program. The woman still had to support another child and the program helped her find that much needed job.

"Open Doors helped her get back on her feet," Bogarty said.

As Gina Kazimir noted, rightly, "The need will not go away."

It is tragic that in these difficult economic times when the need is perhaps greatest for an organization like Open Doors that the fiscal realities make it impossible for it to continue operation.

"It's been an honor to serve Open Doors over the years," said Craig DeRan, a Bel Air lawyer who was counsel for the Open Doors board. "I hope something comparable springs up in its place."

For the sake of our community, I hope so, too.

While the Department of Social Services continues in its mission, Open Doors helped a lot of people not fall as far through the cracks as they may have otherwise.

To all those men and women who made the work of Open Doors possible over the years, thank you.

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