Award honors 45-year career supporting vulnerable youth throughout Twin Cities
Andy Martin—who has worked with Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis for the past 45 years—has received a national award honoring his work, the 2022 Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Award. The award recognizes a person working at a Catholic Charities agency who has distinguished themselves in the area of helping children, youth, and families. A video honoring Andy’s legacy of impact will be featured at CCUSA’s Annual Gathering in Baltimore later this month.
Over a 45-year career, Andy has held several formal leadership roles focused on supporting vulnerable young people, many of whom have experienced trauma in their lives. He began working in 1977 as an overnight support worker at St. Joseph’s Home for Children, and he recently returned to providing direct services at Hope Street for Youth, a housing-focused shelter for young people aged 18 to 24 that provides essential support including food, laundry, medical care and case management. After a long and fulfilling career, Andy is retiring from Catholic Charities later this month.
Colleagues influenced by Andy’s leadership believe his impact on youth is truly immeasurable. Andy’s current supervisor said that former clients often call to check in with him, knowing of his genuine interest in their wellbeing as well as their futures. “I believe the world will truly be a better place because Andy Martin was here,” said Keith Kozerski, chief program officer for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Reflecting on a career during which he impacted thousands of young people, Andy offered many memories as favorites: rocking babies to sleep at St Joseph’s Home for Children, sampling unusual foods prepared by youth in culinary school, doing practice interviews and coaching youth into confident job applicants—even having staff coax him into singing for students and parents at a graduation celebration. But he kept returning to the small moments, conversations that have left him feeling invigorated and inspired—hopeful for the youth under Catholic Charities’ care.
Over the past 45 years, Andy worked at various Catholic Charities programs, including St. Joseph’s Home for Children, Day Treatment, and Hope Street for Youth. He distinguished himself by incorporating a youth-focused approach, facilitative leadership, and behind-the-scenes managerial expertise:
- YOUTH FIRST: Prior to the availability of research surrounding trauma-informed practices, Andy was already tuned in to therapeutic initiatives, including advocating for a 60-gallon fish tank at a youth facility, supporting the use of therapy animals, or supporting youth to self-select “calming rooms” to manage their emotions. Andy often encouraged youth to enjoy the outdoors, prepared cups of hot chocolate for tough conversations, and even made sure girls could have their hair done—properly. “A strong relationship doesn’t mean you have to like each other,” Andy explained. “It means you have shared trust. The youth have come to know that if I say I’ll do something, I do it.”
- LEADERSHIP: Andy counts his facilitative leadership and ability to empower others to lead as his most valuable skill. “Plans work when people believe in them, and people believe most in the plans they help create,” he expressed. Colleagues noted that Andy is the type of leader who wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself and always kept youth in mind when making decisions—everyone felt a little safer knowing he was in the building if there was a problem.
- MANAGERIAL EXPERTISE: Andy also spearheaded critical behind-the-scenes administrative and technological advances. He incorporated data into decision making, introducing strategies and beneficial systems much earlier than other agencies. He also emphasized the importance of record-keeping for the benefit of the youth. Some of the changes he implemented enabled Catholic Charities to expand programs and serve even more youth.
ANDY’S COLLEAGUES REFLECT ON HIS IMPACT:
“Our slogan is ‘All are Welcome Here,’ and that personifies who Andy is; he is not only generous with his knowledge in giving good advice and motivation to young people, but with his coworkers as well. He is energetic in taking responsibility for the big picture.” Tim Colby, longtime St. Joseph’s Home for Children & Hope Street employee
“Andy worked to develop meaningful relationships with the clients, which allowed him to meet their unique needs. He spent long hours chatting with the youth to build that rapport.” Diana Ebbers, Youth Support Specialist at Hope Street
“Andy has been effective with a diverse and ever-changing population of clients, and he has always advocated for meeting clients where they were—and they often expressed gratitude.” Jon Corniea, Hope Street Unit Manager
Andy’s service to youth and his broader community has always gone beyond the scope of his job title. He is a lifetime member of the NAACP, serving on their board for many years, eight years as secretary of the Minneapolis chapter. He is also a trained family mediator and worked with Catholic Charities in that capacity prior to the program closing in 2003. During this time, Andy shared his family mediation skills with Ramsey County Cooperation for the Children and Hamline University’s Dispute Resolution Center as well. Andy also served on the board of Conflict Resolution Minnesota, including many years as secretary, two terms as president, completing his service as secretary and acting treasurer in 2020.
ABOUT THE BISHOP SULLIVAN AWARD:
The Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Award was named after Bishop Sullivan (deceased), who served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and was revered nationwide for his concern for the poor and marginalized. In 1961, he was appointed assistant director of Catholic Charities’ Childcare Division. Four years later, he was named director. In 1968, Bishop Sullivan became executive director of Catholic Charities in Brooklyn Queens, and he was elected executive vice-president of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities USA in 1979. Throughout his ministry, he championed the needs of children.
Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, president and CEO of CCUSA, noted the exemplary service that Andy has provided and the impact he has made on young people for more than four decades. “Andy has dedicated his career to serving the most fragile of youths, helping them get through unimaginable situations and circumstances. Like many others in our ministry, he is the face of Christ, dedicating his career to providing help and hope to individuals who would otherwise be overlooked and discarded.”
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