Inter-Faith’s new director stresses need for Operation Holiday donations

12/01/2011 5:00 AM

12/02/2011 7:02 AM

Inter-Faith Ministries introduced Anne Corriston as its new executive director Thursday, and one of her first duties was to announce that Inter-Faith was way behind on donations for Operation Holiday.

Only 10 percent of the food, money and clothing that Operation Holiday collected for the needy last Christmas has been donated so far this year, Corriston said at a news conference announcing her appointment. At the same time, applications for help are up 300 over last year.

“I hope it’s a fluke,” Corriston said of the donation level, asking Wichitans to dig into their pantries for food to give. “I hope people are thinking of us but haven’t dropped off” their donations yet in bins available at Walmart, Dillons, Wells Fargo, In the Bag Cleaners and a distribution center at Broadway and 37th Street North. Donations of food, toys, coats, gloves, mittens, blankets and money are requested and will be accepted until Dec. 17. In the Bag is receiving the gifts of gently used coats and blankets.

The hiring of Corriston, a lifelong Wichitan who has long worked in the city’s nonprofit sector, is a response to the sudden death last summer of Inter-Faith director Sue Castile. Castile died of a heart problem that had been undiagnosed.

“Sue had put us on a very, very good path, and we thought Anne had the skill set and the persona to continue that,” the Rev. Don Olsen, president of Inter-Faith’s board of directors, said at Inter-Faith’s headquarters at 829 N. Market.

Inter-Faith runs an inn for the homeless and the Safe Haven for mentally ill men, provides low-income housing to get people off the streets, and leads Operation Holiday for the needy at Christmastime. Last year, Operation Holiday helped 12,854 people.

“We need the community to pull together to help the people who won’t otherwise have a Christmas,” the Rev. Cindy Watson, head of the search committee for a new director, said.

Corriston had most recently been director of community relations for the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, before financing ran out for the position. She took a break from work after that to help her daughter through the process of adopting two children this summer, she said.

Corriston has many connections in the community, Watson said, including working for Episcopal Social Services, the Wichita Children’s Home and the Wichita office of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She has been on both sides of giving and receiving grants. She was chosen from a pool of more than 150 applicants from around the country, Watson said.

“She has a real passion for those who have the most need.”

Corriston said other organizations had told her that Inter-Faith’s mission is needed in the community, especially in providing help for the homeless. She said she had found the board unified and the staff strong.

“There’s a great work already happening here and a chance to build on that,” she said.

Corriston said she hoped to draw more congregations into the inter-faith ministry. While large congregations may have their own ministries, Inter-Faith may be a good fit for smaller or more medium-sized congregations looking to serve, she said. The same may be true of congregations that have emphasized national or international service but that find it’s time to put their efforts to work right here in Wichita, Corriston said.

She said Inter-Faith is there for the various religions to “emphasize what we have in common.”

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