Detailed History of CPO

Our Founders

In the early 1970's, Sister Ann Joseph and Sister Louise Hill from the Order of the Daughters of Charity were sent to Raleigh to start a Catholic Charities program. The Sisters began their work by giving direct assistance of food and money from their Catholic Charities offices at St. Monica’s convent.  They soon recognized the need for help was greater than the two of them could provide. They called a meeting at Sacred Heart Cathedral to discuss the need for a Catholic lay ministry to the poor in downtown Raleigh. Representatives from St. Joseph, St. Rafael, Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Mary parishes all attended.  The decision was made to open an office that would provide direct services to the poor in downtown. 

An Old Barber's Shop

The first volunteer director of what was then called Greater Raleigh Parish Outreach of Catholic Services was Carol Almacy.  The doors of Catholic Parish Outreach (CPO) first opened at an old barber shop at 232 Tarboro Street near St. Augustine College.  Among the first volunteers were Joan Van Giesen (Volunteer Coordinator), Peg Coleman, Nan Raiter, Marge Moeller, and Mary Steigerwald.  Within the first nine months almost 200 people (slightly over 20 per month) came to CPO to receive food, clothing, transportation to doctors’ appointments, furniture, help with grocery shopping, and financial assistance.  CPO was open from 10 am to 2 pm, four days a week and was staffed with two different volunteers from the various parishes.  They were the ones to do the intake information and to assist the people in getting whatever they needed.  They kept track of the services provided by writing down all client records into a Rolodex.  Representatives met every month to discuss funding and the daily operation of Catholic Parish Outreach.  Most of the funding came from donations that parishioners made at “Share Sunday.”

Word spread quickly and curious people began arriving to see what this new ministry was all about.  When people offered furniture, a list was made of those who called.  This list was matched against a list of requests from those in need.   Current volunteer Jim Cichetti Jim Colver, and Ray Kelling were the first “furniture movers.”  One delivery of an urgently needed bed turned out to be to a brothel.  When the men were busy, the women volunteers helped out.  In one case, Peg Coleman and Teri Bowerman actually carried a sleeper sofa down from a second floor apartment.  This was the sort of “can do” attitude that made CPO successful from the start.

Monthly Clothing Sales

CPO soon needed more space, and a move was made to a larger storefront at 211 E.  Franklin Street. We continued to have a volunteer director and key volunteers who ran the ministry.  CPO even conducted a monthly clothing sale at Walnut Terrace.  A volunteer Treasurer, did a great job managing the finances, now that financial support was materializing. Our staff included:  Teri Bowerman (who succeeded Frank Vandinenden as Director), Joe Caparos (in charge of food), Marie and Charlie Vasallo (furniture coordinators), Jodi Donaldson (clothing sale coordinator), and Jim Colver (treasurer).

And Then Came Bob

As CPO grew in size and complexity, the need for a paid Director who would provide on-site management and continuity became apparent.  Fran Pellatier was the first person to fill that position.  A few years later she was succeeded by Bob McBride, who had been one of the volunteers.  Major growth of CPO occurred during Bob’s long tenure of fifteen years as Director.

The move to 408 Capital Boulevard in the late 80’s satisfied CPO’s need for much additional space into a 3,000 square feet building.  About that same time further consideration was given to the operations control of CPO which had been in the hands of a volunteer Board.  CPO was now distributing government surplus food, receiving food from the Interfaith Food Shuttle and purchasing food from the Food Bank.  The trusty Rolodex evolved into three computers.  Record keeping was complex.  Insurance coverage was a concern.  The Board decided that future growth could be better managed if CPO became a part of Catholic Charities. Catholic Parish Outreach had come full circle having been born by Catholic Charities originally in cooperation with the parishes.

Focusing Our Efforts

In the beginning CPO tried to be all things to all people.  In addition to food and clothing distribution and furniture matching, CPO provided assistance with rent and utility payments.  To best serve its clients, CPO decided to limit its services to providing food, clothing for small children and expectant mothers, and baby equipment.  These services were the most urgent and, in large volume, were not available anywhere else in the Raleigh area.  Referrals were now required in order to receive assistance. 

The next CPO relocation to 2539 Noblin Road was undertaken in 2003 into an 8,000 square foot facility.  It was a significant effort, especially since CPO now owned such large pieces of equipment as a walk-in refrigerator, a walk-in freezer and a fork lift truck.  This move provided CPO with a major facelift, better organized working space and the benefit of sharing the building with the Hispanic Family Center, as the number of Hispanic clients has increased exponentially since then. 

Terry Takes the Reins

Shortly after the move to Noblin Road, Bob McBride, our long term Director died in 2004.  Terry Foley took over as Director of CPO during a period of rapid expansion in the number of clients served.  She was successful in recruiting many additional volunteers to work in food and clothing services and in the important task of interviewing clients.

In 2011 through a grant from the Beehive Foundation, we were able to hire Kelly Rappl as CPO Assistant Director.  As our client numbers continue to rise, Kelly has been instrumental in selecting and training lead volunteers for the Food area, and she keeps us organized in the Food area and Warehouse.

In 2015, our beloved Volunteer Coordinators Bea & Marty Traube retired.  They had volunteered to coordinate CPO's volunteers for 1 year. Their commitment blossomed into 12 years of full-time volunteer work, which was a great blessing for CPO.  To take their place, volunteer and parish liaison Kathy Barnack was hired to take their place.  Kathy brings to us a wealth of volunteer coordination experience from her volunteer work at St. Mary Magdalene, and she was a Business Analyst in the technology industry.  We are thrilled to have her on our team!

CPO and the Hispanic Family Center have been in our current 16,000 sq. ft. building on Raleigh Blvd. since 2008.  In 2014 CPO provided approximately 2.5 million pounds of groceries to an average of 10,500 people a month!  One day before Thanksgiving we served over 300 families!  Clients can receive a week’s worth of groceries every 30 days; on average a family visits CPO 2.9 times a year.

Surely the pioneers of 1977 would be astounded to see what has come of their efforts.  A walk through CPO’s current pleasant facility and conversations with the many dedicated volunteers would surely convince them that carrying that sleeper sofa down two flights of stairs led to a future far beyond their imagination.