We’re into Life-Changing Solutions

Jerry Rauckhorst says his lifelong work with Catholic Charities is ‘a calling related to my faith.'

Jerry Rauckhorst says his lifelong work with Catholic Charities is ‘a calling related to my faith.’

So says Jerry Rauckhorst, who is retiring as head of Catholic Charities Hawaii after 20 years. The nonprofit that serves anyone in need, not just Catholics, focuses on reducing poverty, and last year served nearly 40,000 islanders

You’ve got to hand it to Jerry Rauckhorst. As a social service leader, he is all about giving a hand up to people in need and never a handout. As he culminates 20 years with Catholic Charities Hawaii, he’s getting a hand himself from admirers who applaud his achievements and contributions.

Supporters will join hands Aug. 11 to honor Rauckhorst at The Royal Hawaiian hotel. The sold-out event, “A Delicious Evening with Jerry’s Ohana,” is a friendly roast of CCH’s president and CEO who retires at the end of this year.

Three titans of the Hawaii business community — John C. Dean, Peter Ho and Walter Dods — are co-chairing the fundraiser. Rick Blangiardi, general manager of Hawaii News Now, is emcee and chief roaster.

With that much power in the room, it will seem like an ordained occasion.

Are you ready for the ribbing, we ask Rauckhorst, who replies he’s looking forward to being in the proverbial hot seat.

It will sizzle with tributes. “Jerry has skillfully guided Catholic Charities Hawaii through significant changes in structure and operations, growing the organization not only in size but also in quality, performance and innovation,” says Dean, executive chairman of Central Pacific Bank. “Known for his wholehearted and genuine commitment to the mission of giving, Jerry is considered one of Hawaii’s most respected CEOs.”

Jerry Rauckhorst works with a senior at Lanakila

Jerry Rauckhorst works with a senior at Lanakila

“For Jerry, results are not measured by numbers or figures, but the personal success stories of clients assisted over the years,” reflects Bank of Hawaii president-CEO Ho. “His philosophy of ‘offering a hand up, not a handout’ is not just a slogan, it truly helps clients they serve eventually become self-sufficient.”

Former First Hawaiian Bank CEO Dods observes: “Jerry’s personal definition of ohana or family always has included our community, which he has embraced for the past two decades. We feel it only fitting that we hold a charitable event in his honor, while at the same time continue to serve others in need.”


Who is this rock star of faith, hope and charity?

We meet the 67-year-old CCH administrator at the nonprofit’s headquarters at 1822 Keeaumoku St.

“We have a problem,” he announces. “A good problem.”

Well, we thought, that’s just Catholic protocol. It starts with confession.

“The Aug. 11 event is sold out,” he says sheepishly. “We hope that doesn’t deter interest in the story.”

We assure him that Mid-Week‘s coverage is not a ploy to sell tickets but a sincere portrayal of someone in the community who deserves the spotlight for his humanity.

Rauckhorst gives us a broad smile to validate our common ground.

Most of Rauckhorst’s 40-year career has been with Catholic Charities agencies: first in Cleveland, then Pittsburgh and finally Hawaii. He was appointed CEO in 1995.

He began work with Catholic Charities as director of youth enrichment and development after getting a BA from University of Akron in 1973.

“I remember going door-to-door with my father to solicit donations from neighbors in Akron,” Rauckhorst recalls of his youth. “That was the spark that got me interested in Catholic Charities. I always felt that it was a calling related to my faith.”


Today Rauckhorst leads Hawaii’s statewide effort to help people of all faiths and cultures through social services and advocacy for social justice. Issues include minimum wage increase, affordable housing development, fair tax policies, and regulations affecting immigrants and migrants — all aimed at reducing poverty.

“What makes us unique is our focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term interventions,” he says. “We’re into life-changing solutions.”

When Rauckhorst took over CCH, it was four affiliate agencies serving different populations with separate boards and executives.

“I oversaw the consolidation, giving us commonality and unity,” he recounts. “I also brought us together at one location on the present Clarence T.C. Ching campus on Nehoa and Keeaumoku streets in Makiki.

“We took a leap of faith,” he says of the major campaign to acquire the former First Presbyterian Church 2-acre property, doubling its building capacity, and integrating staff and employees that today number 310.

“One of our challenges,” he cites, “is letting the public know that we serve everyone regardless of religious affiliation. Lots of folks think they have to be Catholic to seek our services.”

CCH has been serving Hawaii since 1947, providing much-needed services including Lanakila Multi Purpose Senior Center and Maili Land Transitional Housing Program on Oahu.

Among current projects underway is a low-income senior housing project in Mililani called Meheula Vista and a recently bequeathed apartment building in Moiliili that will become affordable housing for new mothers.


During his tenure, Rauckhorst helped the nonprofit agency grow from a $9 million to $27 million annual budget that serves nearly 40,000 clients a year.

Eighty-five percent of its revenue is derived from government sources and contracts. That can be a mixed blessing in the social service realm.

Rauckhorst has plenty of ‘fans' at Lanakila Multipurpose Senior Center.

Rauckhorst has plenty of ‘fans’ at Lanakila Multipurpose Senior Center.

“With government funding cutbacks, we’ve had to be innovative,” the retiring CEO says. “We need to change the proportion of government funding in step with economic realities. While we will not negate the importance of government contracts, we cannot be so reliant on it.”

He cites innovative programs such as providing on-site social services to senior and other housing complexes to relieve residential managers of that responsibility.

Rauckhorst is in step with top trends cited by National Council of Nonprofits.

The resource squeeze — not having the means to respond to new opportunities — continues to be the greatest challenge in the face of increasing needs in communities. Philanthropic giving also has not returned to pre-recession levels, according to the council.

The strain on the social safety net means nonprofits need to cast a wide net for funding and try out new approaches, such as CCH is doing.

One of Jerry last visits to Lanakila Multi Purpose Senior Center before he retires

One of Jerry last visits to Lanakila Multi Purpose Senior Center before he retires


A third significant trend is that governments are shifting their burdens to nonprofits.

The shift of government financial responsibility to charitable nonprofits is happening at the same time that governments openly expect charitable nonprofits to step forward to fill the service gaps and address growing needs in communities, the council reports.

Nonprofits are becoming more aware of the need to engage in advocacy to remove barriers and protect their missions. CCH has been a pioneer in addressing this strategic initiative, including reforming government-nonprofit contracting practices.

Rauckhorst affirms, “It costs to deliver a nonprofit’s mission. Sustainability depends on financial management and governance practices that are ethical, transparent and accountable.”


Information about the newly established Jerry Rauckhorst Fund that supports the mission of Catholic Charities Hawaii is available from the organization’s web-site at

Changing Hands

Catholic Charities Hawaii has selected Terry Walsh, a leader with more than 20 years of experience in social services from local to global platforms, as its new CEO and president beginning Nov. 1.

Terry Walsh Photo from Becker Communications

Terry Walsh
Photo from Becker Communications

Walsh, 46, is currently president-CEO of Catholic Charities West Michigan. His ties to Hawaii include earning his bachelor’s degree in behavioral science at Chaminade University, serving as a teacher for special needs children at Washington Intermediate School, and as youth camp counselor for troubled teens at Hale Kipa.

Leslie H. Correa, CCH board chairman, calls Walsh’s credentials a natural fit for the position. “His extensive leadership experience, creative thinking and proven ability to problem-solve and build bridges will serve Hawaii well,” he says.

Walsh, wife Shari and children Malia and Cheyenne will move to Honolulu. Malia will enter her freshman year at Chaminade this fall.

Upon retirement, Jerry Rauckhorst will remain in Hawaii with wife Cheri and sons Aaron and Will, and plans to do teaching, consulting and community service.