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La Jolla couple to be honored with inaugural Father Joe Carroll Award for efforts against homelessness

La Jollans Ed and Ann Witt will receive the inaugural Father Joe Carroll Award.
La Jollans Ed and Ann Witt will receive the inaugural Father Joe Carroll Award at Father Joe’s Villages’ children’s charity gala Saturday, May 7.
(Courtesy of Ed Witt)

Father Joe’s Villages has succeeded in furthering its mission to end homelessness in San Diego partly by keeping its Witts.

Ed and Ann Witt, that is. The La Jolla couple have been involved in philanthropic efforts with the San Diego nonprofit for more than 20 years, and for that they’ll be honored with the organization’s inaugural Father Joe Carroll Award.

The award, named after the organization’s founder, who died in July, is meant to acknowledge a long-standing commitment to the mission of Father Joe’s Villages. It will be given to the Witts at the 37th annual children’s charity gala called “Hope Blooms” on Saturday, May 7, at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

The gala, which is returning in person after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, raises funds for Father Joe’s Villages’ programs and services for area children and families experiencing homelessness.

“We’re very, very honored to be the recipient, especially the inaugural of the Father Joe Carroll Award,” Ed Witt said.

“Father Joe’s is one of the delights of my life,” he added. “It has been an amazing experience to be working with the team at Father Joe’s. It has given us a lot more than we could ever [hope to] get from it.”

The Witts became involved in Father Joe’s Villages less than two years after moving to La Jolla in 1997 from Milwaukee.

When Ed retired two years ago after running his Witt Lincoln dealership, he had more time to devote to Father Joe’s, for which he had served on the board for 20 years, including a term as chairman.

He said he now serves on three committees and spends more time working for the organization than when he was chairman.

Together, he and Ann chaired the “Hope Lives Here” campaign, which was held last year in place of a gala and raised twice its $5 million goal.

“We’ve been keeping busy since I retired, which is good,” Ed said.

The name of the Hope Lives Here campaign followed Ed’s philosophy that “hope is not a strategy, it’s a basic human need.”

“It’s something that you feel every day [and] is a necessity to be happy and to have a future and to execute a plan,” he said.

Jim Vargas, president and chief executive of Father Joe’s Villages and deacon at La Jolla’s Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church, told the La Jolla Light that the Witts’ work at Father Joe’s “is truly inspiring. They both embrace Father Joe Carroll’s legacy and demonstrate a remarkable commitment to help end homelessness.”

Father Joe’s mission is important because it promotes “supportive housing” as an answer to homelessness, Ed said.

Simply moving someone into a motel or another form of housing doesn’t work because most of the unhoused “have a community of humanity on the sidewalk … in order for them to survive,” he said.

Father Joe’s Villages provides services beyond housing and food to help those transitioning from homelessness avoid isolation. It serves more than 450 families and more than 900 children annually.

“Hope is not a strategy, it’s a basic human need. It’s something that you feel every day [and] is a necessity to be happy and to have a future and to execute a plan.”

— Ed Witt

The children’s services — therapeutic child care, academic support, tutoring and family counseling — are the most “amazing thing” about the organization, as they support parents raising and protecting their children and getting the children on track developmentally, according to Ed.

Ed also is president of Enhance La Jolla, which administers the Maintenance Assessment District in The Village, and he is involved in other community groups. He said he gives so much of himself to public service to “do something and not sit by and let life pass.”

“I feel I’ve had a lucky life in many ways,” he said. “It’s a passion to try to help.” ◆