“Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa logo” Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

 

 

By Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim Media Writer

When a series of fires in California devastated much of the North Bay last fall, 1 in 20 residents lost their homes in the city of Santa Rosa alone.  As a result, many individuals and families were left homeless and unsure about their futures. Along with offering a multitude of other services, The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa is committed to “providing long term fire recovery” for 4 counties in Northern California “through dignity, hope, and love,” explained Executive Director Len Marabella.

Head shot of Len Marabella

“Len Marabella, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa” Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

As part of the Catholic Charities national network, the Diocese of Santa Rosa assists individuals regardless of their religious beliefs.  The organization “respond[s] to local needs,” explained Marabella and alters its services to best serve its Santa Rosa community.  In addition to providing help after the North Bay fires, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa offers shelter, food, and education programs to 20,000 people each year who face homelessness, poverty, and immigration battles.

Following the wildfires, Santa Rosa city officials have seen a drastic increase in the homeless population.  Beginning in 2008 with the nationwide economic recession, the city’s homeless rate was three times the national average, and the fires have undoubtedly added to those figures.  In the aftermath, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa helped to find housing for the most vulnerable citizens and continues to work in fire recovery.

“It’s going to take a lot of energy and many years,” stated Marabella.

“We are more geared towards the longer ranged solutions than the immediate solutions.”

Recently, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has changed its philosophy in order to house individuals and their families.  While the organization continues to oversee the transition from shelters to permanent homes, the staff works to eliminate barriers in order for families to swiftly move to affordable housing.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa is also recognized as a prominent and trusted agency for immigrants.  While many families have become fearful of recent changes to immigration policies, the organization offers workshops and preparation services in order to present individuals with their rights.  Due to its vast number of programs, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa is the largest immigration and sheltered housing agency north of San Francisco.

 

"Immigrant Family" Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

“Immigrant Family” Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

 

Marabella, who has been the Executive Director of the organization for the last 4 years, is motivated by his faith and the Catholic social teachings.  The organization’s motto to “treat everybody with dignity and respect” aligns with Marabella’s own background.  He attended the Jesuit college Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and prior to becoming the Executive Director, Marabella was part of the Board of Directors while his wife was a volunteer of the Catholic Charities.

It was his unyielding dedication to his faith and the community of Santa Rosa that helped Marabella during a difficult period in his life.  As a result of the North Bay fires, the Marabella family lost their home but received unwavering support from others, many of whom also faced tremendous loss.

“I feel the community is much closer together,” he stated of the city of Santa Rosa.

 

"Len Marabella peaking to the community" Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

“Len Marabella peaking to the community” Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

 

With a staff of 175 people and the number of volunteers reaching 2,000 annually, Marabella and his team continue to address the needs of their Santa Rosa community.  Along with helping the homeless and immigrant populations, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa facilitates a Memory Care Program for seniors and distributes food to families in need.  Moreover, the organization plans to open a new shelter and family drop-in center within the next several years.  Named Caritas Village after the Latin phrase meaning “love for all,” the center aims to maintain the Catholic charity tradition for those who may face hardships in the future.

Despite the various religious backgrounds of their clients, Marabella explains the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa will unquestionably offer their services to all who need them.

“All beliefs, all cultures are welcomed here.”

Learn more about the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa and donate.

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Nonprofit Spotlight: Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa Helping Individuals of “All Beliefs, All Cultures” During Difficult Times