About 80 parish and community volunteers, local clergy and lay leaders, and staff of Catholic Charities of Buffalo gathered today for a volunteer training workshop to help kick off the 2015 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Erie County.
The event was held at Catholic Charities Montante Administrative Center in Buffalo in preparation for the 91st annual campaign, which carries a goal of $10.9 million and officially began Jan.7. The patron saint for the 2015 Appeal is Saint Francis of Assisi.
Working under the theme "Find Good Within," Appeal volunteers from Erie County will begin reaching out to individuals and businesses in the community to encourage their support of the 2015 Appeal, which helps fund Catholic Charities' 70 myriad programs across 61 sites in Western New York along with a number of ministries through the Bishop's Fund for the Faith.
Donors from Erie County contributed $8.5 million to the 2014 Appeal. Last year, Catholic Charities' services impacted 114,270 individuals in Erie County.
Two important dates during the 2015 Appeal include First Report Sunday on March 22 and the culmination of Appeal Week on Palm Sunday, March 29. Although Appeal Week marks the strongest push for parish donations, volunteers will work to achieve the final goal until the conclusion of Catholic Charities' fiscal year on June 30 if necessary.
Among the speakers at the event were the Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo; Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, Catholic Charities diocesan director; and Dennis Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer, and Jake and Katie Schneider, chair couple of the 2015 Appeal.
Members of the Appeal leadership team presented information about the 2015 Appeal, including what has changed, how to run a successful parish campaign and ideas for gaining new donors while also retaining previous supporters.
In his third Appeal as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Malone thanked the volunteers and explained the 2015 campaign theme.
"This year's theme is about setting aside our preconceived notions, opening our hearts, and looking inside ourselves to find the good within," said Bishop Malone. "It's easy to look at the world in which we live and see the bad, the need; where we fall short. Sometimes it's harder to find the good. At Catholic Charities, we believe there is abundant good in the world, and in each one of us, regardless of the circumstances.
"Catholic Charities helps create and spread the good in our community through vital services that helped to impact the lives of more than 142,000 Western New Yorkers in need, Catholics and non-Catholics alike," Bishop Malone explained.
Bishop Malone was joined by Sister Mary McCarrick, who provided an overview of how Catholic Charities' programs impact the people they serve and underlined the importance of donations of any size.
"At Catholic Charities we commit ourselves to reaching out to those who are poor and most vulnerable as that is our mission," said Sister Mary. "Sometimes they need food or medicine, sometimes counseling or education. Always they need friendship and peace. This work is sweet to us, but it is possible only because of the generosity of our Western New York community, individuals and businesses alike.
"Thank you for joining the hundreds of volunteers who support the Appeal to make our community better. Your generosity, expressed through your faithful gifts of time and donations to the Appeal, truly make a difference. Your work and your gifts energize our passion and compassion for our work," Sister Mary added.
Sister Mary also introduced Jake and Katie Schneider, who expressed confidence in achieving this year's Appeal goal.
"Factors like a struggling economy, a shrinking donor base and an increased need for services are all challenges this Appeal has faced, and this year is no different," said Jake Schneider. "We are confident that under the leadership of Bishop Malone, and through the support of volunteers, donors, staff and St. Francis of Assisi, our patron saint, we will once again succeed in meeting our Appeal goal."
Katie Schneider added, "As the theme this year states, to see the good, or God within each of us, we may need to open our eyes and hearts in a new way. A gift to Catholic Charities is a gift to our own neighbors who are seeking help for a better life."
The 2015 Appeal volunteer leadership team includes Nicholas and Nicole Tzetzo, vice chairs; Kellie Ulrich, community division chair; Jim and Mary Beth Basil, and John and Suzanne Berger, corporate co-chairs; and Rick Cronin, who will again serve as parish chair.
Reflecting on the importance of donations to the annual Appeal, Bishop Malone recalled the life and words of St. Francis of Assisi, who said, "It is in giving that we receive," and the encouragement of Pope Francis to "Take care of God's creation...and above all, to take care of people in need." Bishop Malone added, "Your generosity in serving our brothers and sisters in need through the Catholic Charities Appeal, and helping to find the good within our community is a concrete response to God's commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself."
In Erie County, Catholic Charities provides a variety of services, including: children's services, older adult services, food pantries, counseling and comprehensive behavioral health services, immigration and refugee assistance, and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.
Catholic Charities operates out of 37 offices in Erie County, including 23 in the City of Buffalo and locations in Amherst, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, Kenmore, Lackawanna and West Seneca. The organization recently announced plans to open a second location in Erie County during 2015 for A Gathering Place - a daily social program for adults 60 years of age and older - at its Amherst office.
Catholic Charities has helped individuals and families in need since its founding in 1923. The need is varied and widespread - from emergency assistance to counseling - and from specialized services for the elderly to help with job training and education.
As the most comprehensive human service provider serving Western New York, Catholic Charities makes a difference for people of every faith and ethnicity. 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.
Catholic Charities is an excellent steward of the contributions it receives. For five years, it attained the highest-possible rating (four stars) from Charity Navigator for transparency and sound fiscal management. Catholic Charities also receives highest ratings from the Council on Accreditation for quality service.
To make a donation or learn more about Appeal 2015, 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.