Mark Rohlena has been CEO of Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs since the beginning of February. Before that he was a litigation attorney for Holland & Hart in Denver; for the past five years he advised nearly 500 attorneys on ethics issues. Rohlena earned his juris doctorate from the Ave Maria School of Law, then located in Ann Arbor, Mich. The annual operating budget for Catholic Charities is $2.5 million.
What is the next initiative for your organization?
It’s difficult to point to one big new thing. We need to be good stewards. As I get to know better what directions we might want to take, they need to be sustainable, while meeting a need in the community. We cover 10 counties. Any new initiatives should also serve the mission of Catholic Charities.
How will your background as an attorney help you in your new role?
It will help me if I have the spirit attorneys are supposed to have, to be problem solvers and experts in the issues we’re dealing with. To be effective, we also have to be very organized. So I take the same approach to this job.
What motivated you to make this career change?
I really enjoyed the work I was doing as an attorney. I didn’t think about changing career paths. But as I started to get involved with Samaritan House (a homeless shelter run by the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver) and other projects with the homeless in the community, I knew it would be something I’d do for the rest of my life on the side.
It was starting to get to the level of a passion for me. Then it got to the point when I said to my wife, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could support the family doing this full-time?” Never dreaming it could happen. Our fourth child is on the way in May — so it’s not an insignificant hurdle. And then we saw the ad for the job in the Denver Catholic newspaper. I asked my wife what she thought. And she said, “I think you should apply for it and see what happens.”
What are the biggest challenges facing Catholic Charities?
Our donors have been really generous to us. Our primary challenge is that the need keeps increasing. In-kind donations are down, but dollars aren’t. We’ve seen an increase in children and families at the soup kitchen, and in the life-support program, which supplies material needs.
We’re on pace to serve 210,000 meals this year, which would be the most ever. It’s hard to think of how to increase financial support compared to how quickly the need is increasing.
Another challenge is serving the clients and meeting their needs, without feeling overwhelmed about what we can’t do for them. We want to try to help bring folks along a continuum of self-sufficiency.
We have succeeded when they no longer need us.
The biggest needs right now are more financial donations, and we’re always in need of diapers, formula and children’s clothing. We also accept donations for household items and appliances.