HAZLETON – After serving the people of Hazleton for nearly 35 years – including 28 years as director of Catholic Social Services’ Hazleton Office – Neil Oberto has decided to step back.
On Jan. 31, 2023, Oberto officially retired from his position, although he simply refers to the decision as a “transition” to be able to dedicate more time to his family.
“I have been truly blessed,” Oberto said in discussing his change with The Catholic Light. “My family (which includes his wife, four daughters and several grandchildren) came along for the ride this entire time.”
To honor Oberto’s dedication to the mission of Catholic Social Services and the people of the Hazleton area, Catholic Social Services will honor him at a retirement celebration/dinner on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hazleton Art League. Information on how to purchase tickets will be available soon on the Diocese of Scranton’s website or by calling the Catholic Social Services Office in Hazleton.
Oberto started his career with Catholic Social Services in October 1988 after previously working with Luzerne County Children & Youth. While the Hazleton native said he was hired for a counseling position, the job description incorporated much more.
“I was taking on counseling cases but also I was taking on social welfare cases,” he explained. “It was everything. You did everything.”
Oberto took over as director of the Catholic Social Services Hazleton Office in 1995. He saw programs begin, grow and change over all that time.
“When I started, our food pantry was a closet,” he reminisced. “Then the food closet turned into a walk-in closet … then the food pantry went from a walk-in closet to what was a former auditorium in the school … and then it had the whole lower level of the church.”
During all of his time, Oberto stressed his love for the Mountain City and its “close-knit” social service agencies that have worked together with the “CAN DO” attitude.
“We addressed needs as we needed to address them,” he stressed.
From programs involving adoption and foster care to maternal health and homeless, Oberto helped to oversee it all over the years.
“One of the things we tried to maintain throughout the years was a strong working relationship with the churches because we saw the work as living a call to service,” Oberto added.
Despite working with countless advisory and governing boards, volunteers, staff members and community partners, Oberto feels his biggest accomplishment will always be serving the people.
“The most important thing would be the individuals and families themselves who sought support, no matter what that need may have been. Hopefully, in some way, we were able to help make a difference,” Oberto stated. “The work itself was based on respecting the God-given dignity and self-worth of those served, no matter what the circumstances may have been, and through that, I hope those being served recognized their own human value.”
Until his final day on the job, Oberto said he was also “personally enriched” by those served – and that is why he continued to emphasize that he is “truly blessed.”
Danielle Matarella, who worked with Oberto for several years, is now serving as the Greater Hazleton Regional Coordinator for Catholic Social Services. Anyone in need of assistance can contact her at (570) 455-1521.