Catholic Charities: 1968 – Present | 50+ Years of Hope

History | Our Story

Catholic Charities has a long history of service in the Colorado Springs Community. Our programs have changed over the years to ensure we are not duplicating the services of other providers in the community, and we have added new services to fill gaps as they occur based on community needs. Here is a top-line summary of Catholic Charities history by decade.

Catholic Charities logo


  • On October 7th, 1968, Colorado Springs Catholic Social Services (CSCSS) begins operations with funding from the Denver Archdiocese following consistent requests for a social service office in Colorado Springs.
  • CSCSS’s primary focus was on Child Welfare Services, budget counseling, and counseling for subsidized homes.
  • The first CSCSS office was located at 220 East Monument Street in Colorado Springs


  • On October 7th, 1968, Colorado Springs Catholic Social Services (CSCSS) begins operations with funding from the Denver Archdiocese following consistent requests for a social service office in Colorado Springs.
  • CSCSS’s primary focus was on Child Welfare Services, budget counseling, and counseling for subsidized homes.
  • The first CSCSS office was located at 220 East Monument Street in Colorado Springs

1970 – 1979

  • In the 1970’s, CSCSS begins offering counseling to ex-convicts, a ministry to the Hispanic community, homemaker, and senior services.  Homemaker services for the homebound and convalescing citizens are offered as a result of funding from a federal grant.
  • Soup Kitchen operations begin with Steve Handen serving meals out of his own home. 13 meals were served on the first day. Handen collaborated with other local activists, known as The Bijou Community.
  • Soup Kitchen operations move to the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
  • Soup Kitchen operations move to First Baptist Church. The Soup Kitchen remained here for 10 years.
  • In 1974, CSCSS becomes Colorado Springs Catholic Community Services, Inc. (CSCCS).
  • The CSCCS office was located at 14 W Costilla Avenue.

1980 – 1989

  • In the early 1980s, CSCCS becomes Colorado Springs Catholic Community and Youth Services (CSCCYS) when CSCCS and Catholic Youth Services were combined into one agency.
  • CSCCYS becomes a United Way Agency in 1983.
  • The CSCCYS office moved to 29 W Kiowa Street
  • In 1984, the Diocese of Colorado Springs was created.
  • A Family Life Office was added to CSCCYS.
  • In 1985, Soup Kitchen operations move to Marian House at 14 West Bijou Street
    • Marian House, named after Blessed Mother Mary, was previously a nunnery owned by St. Mary’s Cathedral that housed 22 nuns. St. Mary’s allowed for the Soup Kitchen to operate out of the house free of rent. The Bijou Community continued to fund and operate the service.
  • In April 1987, CSYS was reincorporated as Catholic Community Services of the Diocese of Colorado Springs (CCS)
  • CCS becomes a licensed child placement agency and initiates open adoptions.
  • Involvement in Head Start followed, but then this program became its’ own 501(c)(3) in 1987.
  • CCS brings Share Colorado to the state of Colorado in 1989.  Share Colorado helps families save money on groceries.

The Old Marian House.

The Marian House

Named after the Blessed Mother Mary, the Marian House was once a nunnery owned by St. Mary’s Cathedral in an old, yellow, Victorian-style house.  The Bijou Community began operating the Soup Kitchen out of the Marian House in the 1970s. CC took over Soup Kitchen operations at the Marian House in 1994.  As the need for meals and other services grew, CC initiated a capital campaign to fund a New Marian House to accommodate the average of 600 meals served per day.

The New Marian House.

1990 – 1999

  • In 1990, CCS initiates Partners in Housing (PIH), which provides transitional housing and supportive services for homeless families with children.  PIH became an independent agency in 1991.
  • CCS develops the Information and Referral program, staffed by Holy Cross Associates. The program helps people access information and resources for social services and would later become Client Services.
  • CCS has its 25th anniversary in 1993
  • In 1994, CCS took over operations of the Marian House Soup Kitchen from the Bijou Community.
  • Children’s services become a part of CCS, including pregnancy counseling. This program would officially become Life Connections in 1999.
  • CCS adds budget counseling, a ministry to people with disabilities, family counseling, the Campaign for Human Development, and social ministry to its programming.
  • The Family Literacy Project is formed out of requests from Our Lady of Guadalupe to offer English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes. ESL classes were made possible through a collaboration between Our Lady of Guadalupe, CCS, and School District 11’s Adult and Family Education program.
  • CCS takes over Soup Kitchen operations in 1994 from the Bijou Community due to the significant growth.  By 1995, 275 meals were being served each day.
  • The Life Support Center, now Life Support Services, is incorporated into CCS in 1999. LSS was an independent agency that began in 1976 to encourage pregnant mothers to choose life for their unborn babies by providing emergency family services support.
  • CCS in conjunction with Pikes Peak Mental Health, developed the Agency Connection Bus to provide transportation between social service agencies. The program was discontinued in 2008 due to high operations costs.
  • On July 26, 1999, CCS changed its name to Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs (CCCS) to be consistent with the Catholic Charities USA network.

The Life Support Center

In 1999, The Life Support Center merged to become part of Catholic Community Services.  At the time of the merger, The Life Support Center was providing emergency services to pregnant women and families with young children as a way to encourage low-income families to continue with an unexpected pregnancy by providing supplemental support for high-cost items that might lead a cash-strapped family to consider abortion.  The program has continued as a welcoming center for families where they can access emergency needs such as clothing, baby food, formula, diapers, and wipes and engage in family support activities.

2000 – 2009

  • In March 2001, the St. Patrick’s Day Gala was launched as the premier fundraiser.
  • Marian House Community Outreach begins as a 1-day a week service program in 2002. By 2003, the program began operating 5 days a week to meet the growing need.
  • CCCS launched the “Bridges to New Beginnings” capital campaign to build a new Marian House.
  • In 2005, Client Services begins offering a clothing closet with hygiene products, birth certificates, ID replacements, and the development of a case management service.
  • The Parish Social Ministry program is reinstated into CCCS in 2006.
  • The New Marian House Kitchen opens in June 2008.
  • The Family Literacy Project expands ESL offerings
  • Family Immigration Services is formed to offer low-cost immigration legal assistance in 2008.
  • The Hanifen Center opens in June 2009. The center is named after Bishop Hanifen, former Bishop of Colorado Springs. In conjunction with the Marian House Soup Kitchen, the Hanifen Center housed additional emergency and self-sufficiency services such as Client Services and Community Outreach Services.

The Marian House Campus

In 2008, the new Marian House Kitchen opened next to the old, Victorian-style building that was home to the soup kitchen. In 2009, the Hanifen Center for Self-Sufficienty, built on the footprint of the old soup kitchen, opened to house the self-sufficiency and stability programs offered at Marian House. Together, they form the Marian House Campus.

In addition to serving hot, nutritious meals every day, the Marian House offers dozens of services ranging from food resources and primary medical care to career development, and computer literacy services, along with space for partner service programs.

MY proudest day as Bishop of Colorado Springs.” Bishop Sheridan on the Marian House Soup Kitchen opening across from St. Mary’s Cathedral.

2010 – 2019

  • In 2011, CCCS changes its name to Catholic Charities of Central Colorado to represent the 10-county service area.
  • In 2013, CCCC opens an office in Castle Rock to serve the poor and vulnerable in Douglas, Elbert and Park Counties.

Catholic Charities Castle Rock Office Opens

In May 2013, Catholic Charities successfully opened an office in the Northern Deanery, based in Castle Rock.  The office was intended to serve the growing numbers of families in need in the northern region of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.  Initially, the office was located at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

Services quickly grew and in September 2016, the office relocated to downtown Castle Rock.  Today,  the Castle Rock office provides emergency and essential services, helps individuals and families move toward self-sufficiency, and provides ESL classes, counseling, family immigration services, and a variety of outreach programs.   The office primarily serves Douglas, Park, and Elbert counties.

  • In July 2015, CCCC opens a Life Skills & Career Development Program which provides individualized assistance for clients to achieve personal and professional goals.  In the first year, 46 clients found employment.  In year two, that number had increased to 200.
  • In collaboration with Family Promise of Colorado Springs, CCCC opens the Family Day Center (FDC) pilot in 2015. The FDC is the only center in Colorado Springs that provides a day shelter for homeless families.  During the 8-month pilot period, the center served 123 unduplicated families. In 2016, CCCC moved forward with the FDC operation alone, serving 189 families.
  • With funding from a state grant, CCCC becomes a Family Resource Center in 2016 with a greater focus on services for families
  • In 2016, CCCC supported the efforts of Springs Rescue Mission to build a campus to focus on the needs of the chronically homeless.  CCCC refocused its efforts on families and realigned programs into four focus areas:  Families, Paths to Opportunity, Emergency & Essential Services, and Health & Well-Being Services.
  • In 2016, the Family Mentor Alliance moved to CCCC. The program pairs families experiencing housing instability and homelessness with mentor teams from religious congregations to help families achieve housing stability, and self-sufficiency, and build community support systems.
  • In December 2017, CCCC moves its Family Services, now called Family Connections to the Helen Hunt Campus to offer consolidated Family Services in one location.  Services expansion included early child development classes and support services focusing on a 2Gen approach.  In January 2018, Bishop Michael Sheridan blessed the new Family Connection offices.

Catholic Charities Family Connections Moves to Helen Hunt Campus

Family Connections programs, including the Family Day Center, Family Mentor Alliance, and Life Support Services, moved from the Marian House complex to offices in the newly renovated Helen Hunt Campus in December 2017.  Beginning in 2018, many programs were added, including Playgroup, Parenting on the Go, and Kidz Korner while others were expanded such as the Early Literacy Project to better prepare clients with early literacy awareness and materials to prepare children 0 – 5 for school.

A significant change for Catholic Charities is the way programs will be delivered at the new facility within the Family Connections department.  The focus will be on a 2Gen approach utilizing Life Coaches and Case Managers triaging and delivering a variety of services such as emergency children’s material goods, helping families transition out of homelessness, help with emergency shelter, and early literacy programs while program names, such as Family Day Center, Family Mentor Alliance, and Life Support Services are retired.

The move allows for Family Connections to grow and expand family services to help families in deeper, more meaningful ways.

  • 2018 was the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, or as it was known then, Colorado Springs Catholic Social Services.  It was also named a “Best Workplace.”
  • 2018 new programming included:  the Siemer project where Catholic Charities embedded a case manager in Mitchell High School to help students and their families find stability and achieve student success;  HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters); and Playgroup.
  • Jeff Zearfoss, a long-time volunteer with Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, was named 2018 Volunteer of the Year by Catholic Charities USA.
  • In November 2018, the Castle Rock office moved into a larger office space located at 410 Wilcox Street.  The new facility allowed them to be co-located with several human service providers with enough space to accommodate expanding programming.
  • In December 2018, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado hosted the Catholic Charities USA Applied Institute for Disaster Excellence, a week-long training for Catholic Charities volunteers across the nation.
  • In early 2019, the Hanifen Employment Center opened.  Previously it had been Life Skills and Career Development Center, helping people find jobs since July 2015.  The expansion allowed for more focus on job skills, resume building, and life skills training.
  • April 2019 saw the installation of 90 solar panels on the roof of the Marian House Soup Kitchen, beginning a group of activities making Marian House Green.
  • 2019 also saw Catholic Charities become involved in the Colorado Springs Homeless Plan, ensuring that families were an integral part of the city’s plan.  While the initial plan was unveiled in late 2018, it did not become finalized until mid-2019.
  • Sarah Bidon, a Life Connections Counselor, was named the Catholic Charities USA recipient of the Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Award in September 2019, making Catholic Charities of Central Colorado a three-time recipient (Kathy Thayer, VP Family Services 2015; Barbara O’Connell, Foster Care Mom 2004).
  • In 2019, Colorado Community Response became a program of Family Connections.  In partnership with the Department of Human Services, CCR is designed to support families and help them access needed services to help prevent child maltreatment

2020 – Present

  • 2020 was the year to remember and to forget.  In February, news of the COVID-19 virus began to circulate, eventually leading to changes throughout society.  Catholic Charities made changes as well:
    • By March, the Marian House meal was delivered via sack lunch until June 8, when socially distanced, in-person dining was once again allowed.   “Soup” was dropped from the name, and the dining room was reconfigured to accommodate round tables.  Meals were now pre-plated and pre-set instead of a buffet line.  Volunteers were asked to stay home if they were in one of the high-risk groups, and meals were served in eight, 15-minute seatings.
    • Facilities were temporarily closed, and non-critical services were temporarily paused.  Clients were seen by appointment, via technology such as Zoom, in open-air parks, socially distanced, or in-person using Plexiglass screens/dividers.
    • Classes moved online.  Many staff worked from home.  Masks, antibacterial solutions, a lot of hand-washing, and social distancing became normal,
    • The 2020 St. Patrick’s Day Gala event was canceled, but the auction moved online and was successful.
    • Rent Assistance became a primary service as foundations, grants, government funding, and individual donations poured in to help struggling families who had lost jobs or had hours reduced due to the pandemic.  In less than a year, Catholic Charities helped almost 1,000 households with nearly $1 million stay in their homes and safe from eviction.  Even though there was an eviction moratorium, this service allowed those households stay current on rent and mortgage payments, and helped landlords pay their mortgages.
    • Shortages were everywhere at the beginning.  Thanks to FEMA, deliveries of critical items such as diapers, wipes, formula, and more were delivered and Catholic Charities distributed them to childcare agencies in the community and to clients.
    • Collaborations were formed to deliver hot meals in the west side of town via a mobile kitchen.
    • A Homeless Isolation Shelter was stood up at City Auditorium, where Catholic Charities delivered daily meals for the people staying there.
  • Growing Great Kids replaced HIPPY as the early education curriculum delivered in homes
  • The Castle Rock office expanded services to include childcare vouchers, collaborated with Douglas County to become a Family Resource Center, and through the donation of a townhome, became more involved in providing housing services to families in need.
  • The Marketplace food pantry opened on February 1, 2021 in the Marian House space that was the family dining room, bringing all nutritional services together in one location.  The pantry was a response to the supply chain issues from the pandemic and the closing of several food pantries in the downtown area

Catholic Charities Opens the Marketplace, a food pantry at Marian House

Providing food to people in need has been a cornerstone of Catholic Charities services for years through the daily hot lunches at the Marian House Kitchen. We also provide food boxes to seniors and emergency food bags to families and individuals in case management.  These options are important but have not been part of a larger program to regularly supplement a household’s monthly food support.

The Marian House Marketplace opened in February 2021 to bring all Catholic Charities nutrition assistance under one program. Clients using the pantry will have access to wrap-around services as they work with a case manager to move toward increased stability and receive a monthly food box that will allow them to stretch their limited resources further.

Many households are experiencing food insecurity in addition to crises around housing, employment, and access to healthcare.  This program allows Catholic Charities to address all four of these areas in a more meaningful way while case managers work alongside clients to create a plan for stability.

Partnerships are vital to our program’s success and this includes the work we do with Care and Share, allowing us to provide The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) for families and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) for seniors. With the support of our longtime food donors, both individual and retail, we envision a pantry filled with a variety of shelf-stable, fresh, and prepared items that will allow the households we serve to stretch their food dollars.

  • In early 2021, Family Connections became a SNAP Outreach Site.
  • The Helen Hunt Campus was purchased by Catholic Charities in December 2022 with the intent on converting the 1901 school building to 24 units of family housing for homeless families.
    • In June 2023, in addition to $4million in private donations, Catholic Charities received a $4.4 million grant from the Colorado State Division of Housing/Department of Local Affairs which resulted in Catholic Charities reaching the $9 million renovation goal for the family housing project

Catholic Charities Purchases the Helen Hunt Campus. Will Convert School to Family Housing

In December 2022, Catholic Charities purchased the Helen Hunt Campus from the Legacy Institute with the intention of converting the older elementary school building into family apartments. With the campus purchased attention turned to raising the additional funds needed to convert the classrooms into family housing. In June 2023, the capital was completed with the $4.4 million grant received from the State of Colorado.

There will be a variety of apartment sizes to accommodate families, including studios, one bedroom, two bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments. The studios will be constructed to allow for two studios to convert to a two-bedroom apartment.

Learn more about this project.