When Mark Barry reflects on the last 10 years he has spent with Catholic Charities of Tennessee, what stands out most to him are the human stories. The Loaves and Fishes volunteer who has a meaningful conversation with a homeless person for the first time. The way Catholic Charities counselors can quickly pivot from family counseling to disaster response. The outpouring of support from donors across the country from all kinds of diverse backgrounds.
“We recently received a check in the mail from the Midwest, with a note that said, ‘You helped me with a bus ticket out of town and out of a bad situation in 2005, and I can give back now,’” Barry recalled. “Catholic Charities was able to help, so she could begin a journey to a new life,” and 15 years later, was compelled to repay that help. That’s the kind of impact Catholic Charities makes every day, Barry said.
Being able to hear and share those stories is something that Barry will miss when he retires from his position as Catholic Charities’ director of mission advancement at the end of the month.
“Although not an easy decision to make – I very much enjoy my work, its mission, and my work environment – I kept arriving at the point in the decision process that it is the right time,” Barry wrote in a message to colleagues.
“It has been a blessing to ‘learn the ropes’ with Mark’s help since joining the agency in May 2019,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr. “He was instrumental in developing the communications and fundraising programs for the agency and his good work leaves an indelible mark on the agency. It will not be an easy task to find someone to fill his shoes.”
Barry first began working with Catholic Charities after the 2010 flood, at the behest of Bill Sinclair, Catholic Charities’ longtime former director. Barry had previously done some consulting with the organization, but after the flood, he ramped up his involvement.
He was on the ground working with Catholic Charities’ flood recovery center in Bellevue, helping organize and distribute donation items as they were received. “We envisioned it as a store without prices,” Barry said. “We wanted to infuse a sense of dignity to the clients coming in.”
After that work, Barry moved into the director of marketing role for Catholic Charities, and then, in 2015, into his current role, where he has worked on both marketing and communications efforts for the organization, and “was really expected to do more than any one person should,” said Orr.
Orr recently hired a development coordinator and is currently searching for a director of development, which, she said will be a “crucial hire.”
Orr has also been working with Atkinson Public Relations to support some of Catholic Charities’ bigger projects like the Pathways to Possibilities fundraiser and an upcoming redesign of its website.
During the last few years, Barry has worked to increase Catholic Charities’ visibility in the community, especially through its social media presence.
“When I started we didn’t have a Facebook page,” he said. “Now we have over 5,000 followers,” and are able to effectively use the platform to share both needs and success stories with a wider audience.
As Barry has been winding down his time with Catholic Charities, the organization has seen some of its busiest months ever. “This spring, we set up two major disaster relief efforts in a little over three months,” to respond to the March 3 tornados and COVID-19, Barry said. “Catholic Charities’ ability to stop on a dime and respond to community needs is remarkable.”
“There are so many stories out there, and so many lives being changed” by Catholic Charities, Barry said.