BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 8, 2014 - Approximately 35 parish and community volunteers, local clergy and lay leaders, and staff of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, gathered today for a volunteer training workshop and luncheon to help kick off the 2014 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Chautauqua County.
The event was held at the White Inn in Fredonia 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; and Maria Perez-Cruz, director of Catholic Charities Chautauqua County services. Also participating were Michael and Maureen Pratt, 2014 Appeal chairs; and other members of the 2014 Appeal leadership team.
In addition, Jonathan Schmitz, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish in Mayville, was recognized with a "Heart at Work" award for his leadership role in working with society members to assist clients who come to Catholic Charities for emergency assistance.
"Jonathan has been a real Godsend to our clients and our organization, often providing assistance over-and-above the programs and services we offer, all in Jesus' name," said Perez-Cruz.
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. Today, 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 Chautauqua 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 Chautauqua County contributed $354,315 to the 2013 Appeal.
Last year, Catholic Charities provided assistance to more than 5,000 individuals in Chautauqua County.
In his second Appeal as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, The Most Reverend Richard J. 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 brightly through our many dedicated staff members and the assistance they provide to our clients," said Perez-Cruz. "Rachel, and her husband Jai, moved to Western New York from a small town in Pennsylvania almost five years ago, shortly after they were married. As part of the move, Rachel quit her job and things became difficult in their marriage, so they tried counseling, before turning to Catholic Charities as a last resort almost three years ago. Since then, their relationship has been strengthened, Rachel went back to school, they bought a new house and they now have a one-year old daughter."
"Without Catholic Charities, I wouldn't have the opportunity to pursue the dreams I have always wanted, said Rachel. "Catholic Charities is a quiet little gem for a ton of resources. What the organization does here in Chautauqua County is really good."
"I hope you will take the opportunity to give - or to give back - to show love as Jesus would, so that we can continue to serve our neighbors in need, such as Rachel, here in Chautauqua County," 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 <regions> in the U.S.," said Maureen Pratt. "Yet, without fail, Western New Yorkers always come through."
Joining Michael and Maureen Pratt on the Appeal Leadership Team are Jake and Katie Schneider, Vice Chairs and Leadership Gift 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."
In Chautauqua County, Catholic Charities provides a variety of services, including: counseling for individuals, children and families; basic assistance; Our Kids: Parent Education and Awareness Program; Domestic Violence Offenders Program; and Chautauqua County Outreach which offers the volunteer-based Friendly Phones telephone assurance program and friendly visits to local hospital patients and nursing home residents.
Catholic Charities operates out of two offices in Chautauqua County, including 425 Main St. in Dunkirk and 560 West 3rd St. in the Westgate Plaza in Jamestown.
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.
More information on Appeal 2014 will be available later this month. 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.