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The Secret Sauce


By Gregory Kepferle
CEO, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and President, Charities Housing Development Corporation


Do you remember your favorite foods from childhood? Maybe it was a special dish cooked up by your Mom or your Dad. Maybe it was a special treat at your grandparents’ home. And later in life, even if you tasted a similar dish in a restaurant or somewhere else, it didn’t taste quite the same. Your taste buds remember the unique flavor of that secret sauce. I am sure you can taste it now.

Just like those special recipes, organizations have their secret sauce – that unique mix of flavors that you can almost taste when you participate in a particular business, club, parish, school, or nonprofit organization. The secret sauce is what distinguishes it from similar types of organizations. What is it that makes this particular group of people focused on a specific cause different from others doing just as good work, being just as committed to the cause?

Recently I have been asking staff at Catholic Charities what they would say are the special ingredients in the secret sauce of Catholic Charities. There are thousands of social service organizations. What makes Catholic Charities the place where our staff best love to work? Not surprisingly, staff came up with many answers – the diversity of staff and programs, our commitment to excellence and high quality standards, staff seeking to find innovative, creative ways to improve services, our flexible client-centric focus, how the agency sets the bar for social services, our vision and mission, our commitment to servant leadership, and how we build relationships within the team and with other organizations, how we are a trusted organization for clients and funders, and staff’s passion for our work. But above all, the most mentioned ingredient is compassion.

Every day I get to witness the genuine kindness and caring our staff and volunteers have both for the people we serve and for each other. It’s not that everyone is perfect. And yes, people do have bad days. But day in and day out our staff and volunteers act with love for our neighbors in need. Yes, we have highly trained professionals providing quality care, but I believe that people respond most to how they are treated – with respect, kindness, and love. That is why it is a joy to work in such a high stress environment addressing clients’ challenges of mental illness, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, family dysfunctions, isolation, incarceration, or displacement due to war and violence. In the very midst of all this pain, Catholic Charities staff and volunteers bring their secret ingredient – compassion. It’s not that the pain completely goes away, but heartache is eased, and people find healing and reasons to hope thanks to the love that they receive.

I invite you to contribute to Catholic Charities’ secret sauce and share your compassion with our neighbors in need. To support Catholic Charities go to www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.