Catholic Charities CEO steps down, interim named

Larry Smith helped to expand organization’s services greatly in five-year tenure

Denver Catholic Staff

Larry Smith stepped down as President and CEO of Catholic Charities June 1 after an impressive five-year tenure with the organization. Replacing Smith as interim CEO is Amparo Garcia, who has served on the board of Catholic Charities since June 2017 and brings seasoned experience as a business executive to her role.

“Larry was a fantastic leader over the past five years, and we are grateful for his service,” Garcia said in a statement introducing herself as the interim CEO. “His impact in our community was significant, and he will be greatly missed.”

Smith was hired in 2013 and under his leadership, Catholic Charities was able to greatly expand the vast repertoire of services it offers to those in need, as well as become more of a staple of faith and charity in the local Catholic community.

“One of Larry’s mantras was ‘We can serve more of those in need,’ and he led Catholic Charites to do just that; he leaves a great legacy of faith in action that will guide Catholic Charities for years to come!” expressed Wayne Wolberg, Chief Financial Officer for Catholic Charities of Denver.

Highlights of Smith’s contributions to Catholic Charities include the launch of Marisol Health, expanded operations of the organization, and the conversion of the former Samaritan House men’s emergency overnight shelter into Denver’s first women’s homeless shelter. Catholic Charities expanded its services under Smith and now provides support through seven ministries including women’s health, shelter services, housing, early childhood education, family and senior services, parish and community relations and counseling services.

Amparo Garcia, board member for Catholic Charities for one year and parishioner of Holy Ghost Parish, has been named the interim CEO of Catholic Charities. (Photo Provided)

By providing comprehensive programmatic assistance, Catholic Charities fosters a structure for success to northern Colorado’s underprivileged. Donor Brent Osland explained that “Catholic Charities looks to give a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘handout’ so I feel that my contribution goes to teach sustainability and not just to provide one day’s meal.”

In a letter to benefactors, leadership from the Archdiocese of Denver praised Smith’s contributions to Catholic Charities and his integrity as president. “Larry Smith has been the face of Catholic Charities for half a decade and has worked tirelessly to promote its mission across northern Colorado,” the Archdiocese wrote. “[He] provided dynamic leadership … and fostered strong relationship with donors, government officials, civic organizations and the broader community.

“Larry Smith led Catholic Charities with a clear and articulate vision and a vibrant focus on our Catholic faith,” said Tom Wanzeck, Vice President of Operations for Catholic Charities of Denver.

As interim CEO, Garcia will continue to direct the great work carried out by Catholic Charities on a daily basis – none of which would be possible without its staff, and most importantly, its donors. Under Smith’s direction, donors from across the diocese jumped in to support the ministries and programs of Catholic Charities. Donations from Catholics and non-Catholics alike have totaled over $12 million in the current fiscal year.

“It is a privilege to steward funds from generous donors knowing that their support empowers the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Andrew Schaefer, Director of Development for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Echoing Schaefer’s sentiments, Catholic Charities donor Rich Todd added, “The Church does so much for the poor through Catholic Charities. We don’t ask them if they are Catholic before providing care, Catholic Charities serves them because we represent the Church of Jesus Christ and they need our help.”

Catholic Charities is in the midst of a comprehensive search to replace Smith as the President and CEO. “Given his charisma, vision and strong connections around the community, finding someone to replace Larry Smith will not be easy,” said Keith Parsons, Chief Financial Officer for the archdiocese.

COMING UP: Denver mayor surprises Catholic school students for Black History Month presentation

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On Monday, February 24, Christ the King Roman Catholic School in Denver held their first Black History Month celebration, and among the special guests was the Denver’s own Mayor Michael Hancock.

The celebration began with the surprise visit of Mayor Hancock, who addressed the students and spoke about the importance of the African American community in our society and remembered those who have made history and impacted our lives.

“I want us all to remember very clearly that this world, our society, has been created by so many people of different colors, races, religions, and we all depend on one another,” Mayor Hancock told the crowd. “Even when we don’t think about it, we’re depending on the inventions and discoveries of people who don’t look like us…Black history Month should also be about celebrating the cultures of history of all people that made this society great.”

After the Mayor’s speech, Kateri Williams, Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry at the Archdiocese of Denver shared her testimony about how she was born and raised Catholic and the impact her faith has had throughout her life.

Mayor Michael Hancock surprised students at Christ the King Catholic School, in Denver Feb. 24 during a presentation on Black History Month. (Photos by Brandon Ortega)

“It’s important that we don’t celebrate in just the month of February or Black Catholic History Month in November, but throughout the entire year,” Williams said. “It’s also important to remember, as Pope Francis has shared, that unity and diversity is something we should have a joyful celebration about. It’s not our differences that we should be focused on, but our unity in our Lord Jesus Christ, that brings us all together and we should bring all of those gifts from all of our ethnic communities together as the one universal Catholic Church.”

As part of the Black History Month celebration at Christ The King, the school held several events during the entire week of February 24, including a basketball game to honor the athlete Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed with seven others in a helicopter accident back in January. Before the fatal crash, Bryant, a Catholic, was seen praying at his local parish.

“The purpose is to bring focus to the contribution that the Catholic Church has [had] with black history,” said Sandra Moss, Teachers and Preschool Assistant at Christ the King Catholic School. “I want students to know Black history is American history. It’s not just about the color of your skin. It’s not about the negativity that is occurring everywhere in the world. I wanted them to see the good side of it… Black history is American history.”