BUFFALO, N.Y., Jan. 25, 2014 - About 40 parish and community volunteers, local clergy and lay leaders from western Niagara County, and staff of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, gathered Saturday for a volunteer training workshop and luncheon to help kick off the 2014 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Niagara County.
The event was held at Antonio's Restaurant and Banquet Center in Niagara Falls in preparation for the 90th annual campaign, which carries a goal of $10.8 million and officially began Jan. 10. Among the speakers at the event were Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo; Catholic Charities Diocesan Director Sister Mary McCarrick; Kathleen Hall, Catholic Charities Niagara County district director; and Irene Bennett, who has relied on Catholic Charities counseling and basic assistance services for her three children for more than 20 years, and who is now in counseling for herself.
In addition, Debra Aloian, residential services coordinator at Passage House, was recognized with a "Heart at Work" award for her efforts in referring their clients, women and their children for Catholic Charities services. Passage House is a free emergency shelter in Niagara Falls for victims of domestic violence.
Although Appeal Week marks the strongest push for donations, volunteers will be working to achieve the final goal throughout the coming months, and if necessary, until the conclusion of Catholic Charities' fiscal year on June 30. Members of the Appeal leadership team presented information about the 2014 Appeal, including what has changed, how to run a successful parish effort and ideas for gaining new, and retaining previous, donors.
Working under the theme "Heart at work," about 40 Appeal volunteers from Niagara County will begin to reach out to individuals and businesses in the community to encourage their support of the 2014 Appeal, which helps fund Catholic Charities' 70 myriad programs across 61 sites in Western New York (WNY). Donors from western Niagara County contributed $662,768 to the 2013 Appeal.
Last year, Catholic Charities provided assistance to more than 14,600 individuals across Niagara County.
In his second Appeal as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Malone thanked the volunteers and explained the campaign's theme.
"This year's theme articulates how Catholic Charities works hard every day to help families and people who have nowhere else to turn," said Bishop Malone. "The need for our services is great, but so are the hundreds of skilled professionals who are 'heart at work' serving our neighbors in Jesus' name."
Bishop Malone was joined by Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, who shared an example of how Catholic Charities' programs impact the people they serve and underlined the importance of donations of any size.
"The hard work of Catholic Charities shines through our many dedicated staff members. Kelly, one of our multisystemic therapists, tremendously helped her client, Jennifer, whose son was missing school and had turned verbally and physically abusive toward his sisters," said Sr. Mary. "After the family worked one-on-one with Kelly, the family became healthier and closer. Fortunate for Catholic Charities, Jennifer believes we helped her to become a stronger parent and get her loving son back."
"I hope you will take the opportunity to give - or to give back - to show love as Jesus would, so that we can serve our neighbors in need," said Sr. Mary. "A gift of any size will show that love, so join the tens of thousands of people, corporations and foundations across Western New York that support this annual Appeal."
Sr. Mary also introduced Michael and Maureen Pratt, the 2014 Appeal chair couple.
"Despite donor loss driven by demographics, we strive to maintain our base at nearly 60,000 - an astounding number," said Michael Pratt. "This year, we'll continue to reach out to the younger generation of existing and potential donors, spreading our message and building awareness of Catholic Charities' mission and its important role in the community."
"Each year, our leadership team and volunteers face a great challenge in meeting such an ambitious goal in one of the poorest cities in the U.S.," said Maureen Pratt. "Yet, without fail, Western New Yorkers always come through."
Joining the Pratts on the Appeal Leadership Team are Jake and Katie Schneider, Vice Chairs and Leadership Gifts Chairs; Rick Cronin, Parish Chair; Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Mattimore, Community Chair; and Corporate Chairs Kathy Lawley Best and William Lawley, Jr.
Reflecting on the importance of donations to the annual Appeal, Bishop Malone recalled the life of St. Pio and the teachings of Pope Francis.
"I am proud to be in a position to lead such a generous diocese," said Bishop Malone. "Much like Pope Francis today, this year's patron saint, St. Pio, espoused a detachment from self and worldly possessions, elevating the healing mission of the Church. While I am profoundly grateful for your past support, I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis, who said, 'to love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete...it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served...and to serve...concretely.' As such, I humbly ask for your continued support and financial assistance as we embark on Appeal 2014."
Catholic Charities offers a wide range of services available in western Niagara County out of three offices in Niagara Falls and two in North Tonawanda, including basic assistance, counseling for individuals, couples and families, Our Kids: Parent Education Awareness Program, child permanency mediation, domestic violence program for men, Kinship Caregiver program, Monsignor Carr Institute children's mental health clinics, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program.
For 90 years, Catholic Charities has been making a difference for people of every faith and ethnicity in Western New York. Catholic Charities empowers children, families and seniors to achieve meaningful, healthy and productive lives. In all situations, Catholic Charities delivers support to meet immediate needs, and then assess its clients for other needs to ensure long-term success. It is the most comprehensive human service provider serving Western New York. For the fifth consecutive year, Catholic Charities has attained the highest-possible rating (four stars) from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management. Catholic Charities also receives highest ratings for quality of service provided and financial health/accountability as rated by the Council on Accreditation and Charity Navigator.
To make a donation, contact Catholic Charities at (716) 218-1400 or go to ccwny.org. You can also check out Catholic Charities on Facebook at facebook.com/ccbuffalo and on Twitter at twitter.com/ccbuffalo.