First president of Catholic Charities named

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Art Bennett, founder and director of the Alpha Omega Clinics, has been appointed by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde as the first-ever president and chief executive officer of Arlington diocesan Catholic Charities, the social services ministry for the diocese that aids tens of thousands of Virginians each year.

"Our outreach to those in need is more crucial than ever before - we must work even harder to ensure that human dignity is upheld among the poor and vulnerable," Bishop Loverde said. "Our ministry has grown significantly over the past several years, and the creation of the position of president will assist (Catholic Charities) in fulfilling its mission. At the conclusion of this nationwide search, I am confident that Mr. Bennett's administrative leadership experience will help guide (Catholic Charities) to serve those in need while proclaiming our Catholic identity."

The addition of a president and chief executive officer to the existing organizational structure of approximately 100 full-time employees and more than 1,000 volunteers became necessary because of the continued growth in both the request for services and in the programs provided. Stephen Luteran oversaw much of this expansion as executive director; he will now serve as senior vice president.

Over the past three years, Catholic Charities opened a new branch office in Leesburg; began St. Margaret of Cortona Residences, a transitional housing facility for families in Prince William County; started Christ House on Wheels, a diocesan-wide food distribution program that serves the outlying counties; and integrated Migration and Refugee Services into their operations.

These changes alone caused agency budget and staff to grow by more than 25 percent. Already existing programs have seen increases in requests. Over the past two years, Catholic Charities has experienced a dramatic increase in requests for emergency assistance from families asking for help with rent, utility bills and medical costs.

"I would first like to express my gratitude to Bishop Loverde for this exciting opportunity," said Bennett. "Thanks to the leadership of Stephen Luteran, the staff and the board of directors, our services are more extensive than ever. I look forward to collaborating with them and the people of the Diocese of Arlington to ensure that we answer the Lord's call to serve and minister to those in need."

Bennett founded the Alpha Omega Clinics in Maryland and Virginia and has served as director for the last eight years. The not-for-profit clinic integrates the Catholic Faith with counseling. Bennett previously was employed by Science Application International Corporation as division manager and vice president. He has been a member of the Arlington Diocese since 1991, and is a well-known presenter and author, published on topics ranging from communication skills to employee-assistance programs. He will begin at Catholic Charities July 12.

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Founded in 1947, Arlington diocesan Catholic Charities is a fully accredited nonprofit social service agency serving 21 counties and seven independent cities in Northern Virginia. Approximately 100 full-time staff are supported by nearly 1,000 volunteers to orchestrate the ministry of tens of thousands people annually through a variety of programs such as: mental-health counseling; adoption services; pregnancy counseling and assistance; foster care; English as a Second Language (ESL) and immigrant services; senior services; Christ House soup kitchen and men's shelter; food pantry and thrift shop; emergency financial assistance for rent, utilities and prescriptions; prison ministry; transitional housing for families; and refugee services. Catholic Charities helps those in need, regardless of race or creed. For more info go to ccda.net.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010