Catholic Charities’ new $15.4 million campus

This article appears in the May 2010 issue of TulsaPeople

At this time last year, Madonna House was a very different place.

Housed in an aging two-story home in the Brady Heights neighborhood, clients of Madonna House, a residential and transitional program for pregnant women and mothers of newborns, lived in small rooms surrounded by narrow hallways and living areas. The house also had a basement laundry room, and Madonna House staff members worried about potential trips and falls, Madonna House coordinator Karen Guzman says.

“Really, it was not a very safe place for them with the stairs,” she says. “It was really dilapidated and falling apart. We were getting critters in the house.  It was pretty bad.”

Now, thanks to a new $15.4 million Catholic Charities campus in north Tulsa, each Madonna House resident has her own room, bathroom and closet storage bin to hold car seats, cribs and other items.

While, in the former location, pregnant and parenting residents occupied the same area of the home, the new facility offers separate residence halls, Guzman says.

“It’s completely separated so you’re not having crying babies waking up pregnant moms who would die for their sleep,” Guzman says.

Overall, the new Catholic Charities facility, which was completed in 2009 and dedicated with a special three-day festival in early December, has allowed Madonna House to nearly double the number of women it serves.

Additionally, classrooms in the new facility have allowed the organization to add educational programming, such as parenting, car-seat safety, English as a second language and GED courses, which are open to clients and the broader community, says Mary Lee Ingram, director or pregnancy and adoption services for Catholic Charities.

The new facility also enables Madonna House clients to easily access the other services they need, including emergency food and clothing services, adoption assistance and a medical clinic.

“It’s a more efficient way of serving the clients,” Guzman says. “When you can be in one location, it saves time, it saves money in most cases because it’s either gas money or bus fare or something else that is taking them to different locations. I think it’s almost perfect timing.”

The idea for a new, consolidated Catholic Charities campus began in 2003 during a strategic planning session, says Kevin Sartorius, executive director for Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities leadership determined that in order to serve more people with more programs, and to do so efficiently, the organization needed additional space. The “Mission of Hope: Changing Lives with Love” capital campaign was born.

The campaign, held pre-recession from 2005-2008, exceeded its goal of $16 million to raise $22 million and allowed Catholic Charities to construct the seven-building, 72,000-square-foot campus, which will serve more than 50,000 individuals each year. Oklahoma City-based TAP Architecture designed the campus, and Tulsa’s Flintco served as general contractor.

The new location is a striking assembly of buildings and a chapel, and is anchored by a distinctive bronze sculpture of “The Poor Virgin of Nazareth” by Tulsa artist Rosalind Cook.

With the joint service area, Catholic Charities’ clients can now easily receive the services they need in one location. And with the increased space, including eight classrooms, the organization was able to add much-needed programs to its roster.

“Primarily, we serve what we call the ‘working poor,’” Sartorius says. “They’re struggling but they’re working hard. They are paying bills, but if the car breaks down, they need help. … They need a hand up.”

In addition to additional space for existing programs, including Madonna House and a 15,000-square-foot warehouse to store food, the campus has five acres of unused space for future planning.

“We’re just beginning. The building is wonderful, but it doesn’t do the work,” Sartorius says. “It’s now the volunteers and donors who will do it and who will invite people in need to come and receive services.”

Since the move to the new campus, Catholic Charities has seen its number of volunteers explode. The organization has only 30 full-time employees working to provide 14 programs to tens of thousands of Tulsans in need. Sartorius says Catholic Charities has therefore embarked on a new capital campaign — a human capital campaign.

The organization hopes to continue increasing its volunteer ranks and, in turn, the number of people it serves, further fulfilling the Catholic Charities mission of reaching out to assist those in need.


Catholic Charities is now located at 2450 N. Harvard Ave. (southwest corner of East Apache Street and North Harvard Avenue). 

Read article at Tulsa People…