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Lori VanAukenvan-auken-lori-022

Executive Director, Catholic Charities Community Services

Years in current role: 8

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love seeing the passion and compassion of our staff extended to the people who we have the privilege of serving — those of all abilities and the most vulnerable in our communities. I most enjoy making certain that staff have the tools they need to ensure our clients’ success.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?

Planning and co-leading a merger during a pandemic has been a big mountain to climb this year. Catholic Charities Community Services and Catholic Family Center will be combining in January 2022 to form Catholic Charities Family and Community Services. Both organizations are in positions of strength and are strategically aligning to better serve our clients throughout the region. Though this is a challenging time, I am most fortunate for the support of both boards, wonderful colleagues, talented staff and the United Way’s Synergy Fund which has helped us make the merger possible.

What do you see as the biggest changes in the health care industry in the next 3-5 years?

COVID has certainly accelerated the use of telemedicine and so we can expect to see more utilization of that valuable tool which increases access to medical and mental health care for so many. It has been exciting to see that social determinants of health such as housing, food security, and employment are more widely accepted as critical components to health care, along with behavioral health. I think we will see even more strategic partnerships between community-based organizations and the medical field.

What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?

I was a Big Sister in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program. I believe whole heartedly in the value of an adult role model in a young person’s life. My hardest times in life were more easily endured when I knew someone genuinely cared about and believed in me. I wanted to pay that forward. I was also involved in supporting my son’s pursuit of his Eagle Scout rank and I participated throughout his Boy Scouting career in activities (even camping) and fundraising. Currently, I enjoy helping my parish, St. Leo’s, in Hilton because it is a special community of people who genuinely care about each other.

What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?

I am enjoying seeing people in 3-D and easing up on the Zoom meetings. Also, I really hate to cook and I’m not very good at it. It will be great to get back to dining out and supporting the fabulous restaurants in our community.

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