Tim Marx made way this month for his successor as chief executive at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis after a decade of record fundraising and new buildings to house and feed the poor on what can be a journey to better health, opportunity and self-sufficiency.
Marx, 64, who started his career as a business lawyer, raised about $200 million overall. He shares credit with clients, employees, volunteers and other stakeholders.
"Catholic Charities is a public-private partnership," Marx said, noting government's reliance on nonprofits to deliver services. "We come together to accomplish what neither could on their own."
Marx and his board a decade ago hoped the then-improving economy and expanded facilities would lift more of the indigent from poverty and allow Catholic Charities to focus a larger share of its-now $50 million-plus operating budget on services to low-income children and families that economists say offers the best return on investment. That would include the Northside Child Development Center that serves kids from working-poor families.
"Unfortunately, our civic environment and economy didn't produce those results," Marx said last week. "It didn't lift all boats. Also, the scourge of racism and inequality is more apparent. I wish we [had] addressed those challenges sooner and better."
The coronavirus pandemic led to a new economic crisis, resulting in an additional surge for the food and shelter that Catholic Charities routinely provides. About 80% of Catholic Charities shelters and emergency-service funding is private.
The agency survived the crisis so far. But it hasn't reversed rising homelessness.
Also, Marx with regret closed Catholic Charities' refugee-resettlement work. He said the Trump administration's legal stances hampered its operation. Catholic Charities has long sought comprehensive immigration reform, with allies such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Those workers living in the shadows often are the closest to the economic edge and rely on the help that it and other charities offer.
"If we are going to solve these big problems of homelessness and racial disparities, if we don't turn the corner on homelessness, we're heading toward the challenges that face Los Angeles and Seattle. We all have an obligation to continue to reach out to those most in need. We will benefit just as much," Marx said.
If there is a silver lining in this pandemic economy, it may be the increased recognition that the working class has been squeezed worst over 40 years by the spiraling cost of housing, health care and higher education compared with wages that have remained stagnant. And they never recovered from the losses of the Great Recession. Moreover, key business and political leaders, from Washington to St. Paul, are talking increasingly of an economic recovery built around a greener, more-inclusive, shared-prosperity economy.
Marx, also a weekly volunteer who knows the charities customers, is all in.
Marx also deserves praise for putting together bipartisan political and business coalitions, particularly in the funding of the $100 million-plus Dorothy Day Place in downtown St. Paul that includes hundreds of temporary-to-permit housing units, nutrition, job training and other services also through partner agencies. It was a nearly decadelong effort. A smaller, 336-bed facility just north of downtown Minneapolis, Higher Ground, also opened on Marx's watch. And work is underway on a $70 million project in Elliot Park to convert a former nursing home into a residence for more than 200 chronically homeless, including veterans.
CEO Mark Dienhart of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, which has invested nearly $10 million in Catholic Charities projects in recent years, is one of Marx's key advisers, as well as former Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, CEO Charlie Weaver of the Minnesota Business Partnership and Tim Welsh, vice chairman at U.S. Bancorp who was adopted as a child through Catholic Charities.
"Tim's combination of patience, grit and political savvy formed the coalitions to, ultimately, piece together that funding [for Dorothy Day Place]," Dienhart said of Marx. "My sense is that he came to Catholic Charities with much of what the urgent needs of the time required and he took like a duck to water with the rest … like private fundraising.
"As needs mounted, he's had to be a part of some difficult decisions about the ongoing mission. My sense is that his instincts always drove him to want to do more. But he was willing to set the stage for his successors by matching the work to ongoing and available resources. He's leaving an impressive legacy.''
Marx was succeeded this month in the $300,000-a-year job by Michael Goar, who experienced homelessness as a child. He has led Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities since 2016.
As noted before and others have said: The temple stands unfinished until all are housed in dignity.