Clete Menke is Director of Operations and Programs
Clete, how did you come to Mary’s Path and how long have you worked here?
I have been at Mary’s Path about 8.5 years. I have a longer history with the organization, though. I was a member of the parish that the prayer group came from that founded the agency in the 1990s and I knew a couple of the founders. I was at the original open house for Mary’s Path. I stayed attached as a donor and I knew some of the leaders along the way. Then the opportunity came up in 2012 to join Mary’s Path and help steer its future. I was very glad to be part of this team. I have been working with kids since the mid-1980s since I got out of college.
What is it about Mary’s Path that made you want to be a leader here?
I like the population we work with. The kids are very special. Despite the challenges they have
had they work hard and become strong mothers, against all odds in many cases. I think the
staff is special and dedicated and I enjoy working with them.
What does your job entail?
I am responsible for the kids, the houses, and the staff. I do whatever needs to be done, of
course, we all do. I make sure we have good staff – people who are well-qualified, trained, and
who have been interviewed well. I’m responsible for the program itself – contracts with
agencies, deciding which moms come here, the clinical decisions, and making sure the facilities
are the best they can be.
We are blessed with the residences we have. Not very many residential facilities are built for
the purpose they are used for. Many are homes or other buildings that have been adapted.
Ours was built to be a home for young girls with babies. For that reason the homes themselves
are special. The fact is the homes are spacious and well laid out and the outdoor area is
specifically designed for the purpose. When they bought the property they were so wise. It’s
about a full acre. The homes have about 8600 sf of living area, with good bedrooms and large
common areas for meals and activities. They were thinking about how to promote community I
in the design of the houses. It was really wise.
Tell us a little about your professional and educational experience.
I grew up in Nebraska and went to a small private college majoring in psychology and sociology.
I also went to Creighton and earned a Master’s degree in counseling. Then I went to work at
Boy’s Town, which is pretty well known. Yes, the one in the movie with Spencer Tracy! I stayed
there for about 13 years and during that time they sent me to California to start up their work
there. Then I went to Canyon Acres where I worked for 11 years before I came to Mary’s Path.
Is there a difference between working with young men and young women?
Some people will tell you that working with boys is different. That’s not quite how I see it. There
is one difference you might not think of. The difference with our residents is I’ve worked with
foster kids for many years and their situations are often fairly desperate, sometimes they run
away. But the stakes are so high for our residents – they are about to become mothers. There
is a lot of pressure on the girls for this reason, they know they have someone to think about in
addition to themselves. They all want the best for their children and they don’t ever want their
children to end up in the system. We want our residents to be in a situation where that sense of
desperation is gone.
Motherhood is hard in the easiest of times, it is even harder when you are fighting against past
challenges. It makes their successes even more impressive. We have managed our way
through COVID and I am exceptionally proud of the girls. I looked at the data recently and the
accomplishments of the girls is still fantastic. They are graduating, having healthy babies,
moving on to independent lives, all in the midst of a pandemic. We celebrate all these accomplishments – graduation, birthdays. Someone asked me, “are you guys always
celebrating?” Yes. It’s so important to celebrate these joyful events.
What do you like best about your job?
I guess it’s that I get to work with the kids and staff closely. I don’t spend a lot of time with the
girls but I do get to know them and I get to follow their progress from the intake interview all the
way through their time with us. Our girls have had to overcome a lot – they have a lot of internal
scars – but that makes their successes even greater. Sometimes girls think that having a child
will fill a hole, but babies aren’t really like that. They are takers not givers – they have needs all
the time. What the teen moms learn is that by meeting the needs of the baby it can help
complete them and they learn what a mother can be for a child. They have the opportunity to
give their child the loving, motherly support that everyone needs and wishes they had growing
Is there anything else you think our readers should know?
Just to know that what the donors do for us and the support they provide matters. It matters so
much. When they think of us and pray for us, this matters. We know it and we feel their support.
The notion of community around us matters. It matters to our teen moms and it matters to our
staff. And we thank them all so much.