Story by Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Along with traffic and weather updates interspersed among talk radio on New Jersey’s 101.5 FM, those who tune in during the morning hours are now hearing word about a new one-stop website that links the services of all five Catholic Charities agencies in New Jersey.
Commercials promoting the innovative site launched Jan. 22 on the radio station and will run Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during the 6-10 a.m. time slot for the next several weeks, said Marlene Laó-Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. The website address is cchelpsnj.org.
Laó-Collins, who conceived of the unified site, worked on the site’s development with the directors of Catholic Charities in the Newark Archdiocese and the dioceses of Camden, Metuchen and Paterson.
Said to be one of the first of its kind in the United States, the website is hosted by eCatholic, a division of Webpro Productions LLC, a company that specializes in Catholic websites for parishes, schools and dioceses.
It is anchored with a map that affords easy access to the Catholic Charities agencies in every county in the state and the services each offers, Laó-Collins said.
“For the first time, all the agencies are accessible in one location,” she said. “The website enables residents across New Jersey to connect to the variety of services offered.”
Traditionally, Catholic Charities has marketed its programs by way of newspapers and radio, she said. “But because of some variations in services, this is a way to connect folks to their respective counties, which is not easy to do in a sound bite.”
“We are such a multi-faceted organization, that to really be of service to the communities we serve, we have to be able to identify our strengths that have been built over the decades,” Laó-Collins said.
The collaboration from all the agencies that went into this effort contributed greatly to its accessibility, she said. “For instance, with the rise in concern over substance abuse, the unified website enables people across the state to see what is being done to address those needs. With our ambulatory detox center in Trenton, we can serve people from anywhere.”
“In Paterson, we have an inpatient treatment center,” Laó-Collins continued. “Our goal was to really showcase what we do across the state to serve residents. It’s not just behavioral health and basic health needs – its homelessness, counseling, a broad range of services.”
Laó-Collins said the website took about six months to organize, with help from the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey.
“The New Jersey Catholic Conference was very helpful in setting it up in tandem with the efforts of the bishops across New Jersey, who have always articulated how much we do to serve the most vulnerable,” she said.
James King, director of the NJCC’s Office of Social Concerns in Trenton, and Tom Barrett, director of special projects for the Paterson Diocese, worked as go-betweens with the agencies on the technical side of the effort.
The intent from the beginning was to focus on user-friendliness, King said, adding that the clients are dealing with extremely stressful situations. “We didn’t want to bog them down with unnecessary steps or confuse them.”