From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340, FAX: (509) 358-7302

Walla Walla CCFS office is collaborative effort

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 1, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Photo: Richard Garcia has been director of the Catholic Children and Family Services in Walla Walla for nearly 30 years. (IR photo by Bonita Lawhead)

Richard Garcia has been director of Catholic Children and Family Services in Walla Walla since 1973. CCFS is an outreach of Catholic Charities in the Spokane Diocese and offers counseling and other services to area residents.

The soft-spoken Garcia, who has a master’s degree in social work, is the counselor. He works with individuals, couples, families – anyone in need of counseling. Under his guidance, CCFS brought some innovative services to its clientele.

Parent aides are one example. Not many years after Garcia started at CCFS, his agency was asked if it could somehow help abusing parents. After a thorough information-gathering process, CCFS adopted a child-abuse policy. It also adapted the parent-aide program from the SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect) organization in Spokane. “We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Garcia said.

The idea is simple. Abusing parents are matched with non-abusing parents who befriend the couple and model different behaviors in dealing with their children.

Garcia said volunteer parent aide recruitment was greatly helped when training on child abuse prevention was offered through Walla Walla Community College for credit. The program is still in operation in Walla Walla, although no longer through CCFS.

Another example is Camp Amanda, a Hospice camp for children age 7-14 whose lives have experienced the impact of death and loss. CCFS assists Hospice at the camp. The camp environment, with its specially-trained counselors, allows children many avenues to express and process their grief. Garcia counsels children at camp, and has become a certified trauma specialist. He often goes into schools to counsel students when tragedy happens as well.

By some standards, CCFS is a small agency. Garcia and office manager Candi Walmsley are the only paid employees. “Everyone else is volunteer,” Garcia said.

He makes it clear that the work of CCFS is a collaboration between him and the CCFS council, a group of 12 volunteers who meet with Garcia every other month, giving “their heads, heart, muscle, and soul,” he said. “This is not an individual thing. Together we discern what needs to be done.”

Sometimes what needs to be done is to raise money, and the board has risen to that need, too. Garcia said the board has held three major fund-raisers, the latest of which was a silent auction that brought in over $10,000. Garcia greatly appreciated the “tremendous support” shown by the people put on the auction as well as those who attended.

Laura Schueller is the outgoing president of the CCFS council. She is also in her last council term; members can serve up to six years. She sees a benefit of changing council membership in that it touches different areas of the community and brings out new ideas such as the silent auction. “That was done by new people on the council,” she said.

Although the primary role of Catholic Children and Family Services in Walla Walla is to provide counseling services, that’s not the only role. Last year 201 families received some kind of assistance through the agency. That assistance was primarily in the form of counseling, but also included donations of food, clothing and other assistance.

Organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, and members of altar societies of the churches in Walla and Walla make various contributions to assist CCFS in many different ways.

CCFS also facilitates international adoption placements.

Other Catholic Charities services in Walla Walla include help for low-income elderly and disabled: Volunteer Chore Service and the Mike Foye/Garden Court housing complex.

“The Walla Walla office is just wonderful in providing services to vulnerable folks,” said Rob McCann, associate director of Catholic Charities in the Spokane Diocese. McCann regularly travels to Walla Walla to meet with CCFS. He praised the council as a group of “very dedicated people in giving their time and energy to make good decisions. The council makes connections in the community possible.”

Garcia loves his work and gladly talked about his agency. But underneath it all is his firm belief that the mission of Catholic Charities is to serve. In that service, and what Garcia does in providing that service, “God will do what he needs to do.”

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