A volunteer training workshop and luncheon to help kick off the 2017 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Niagara County was held Saturday, Jan. 21, in Niagara Falls with about 50 parish and community volunteers, local clergy and lay leaders, and staff of Catholic Charities of Buffalo on hand.
The event was held at Antonio's Banquet & Conference Center in preparation for the 93rd annual campaign, which carries a goal of $11 million and officially kicked off on Jan. 18 with a news conference in downtown Buffalo. The patron saint for the 2017 Appeal is St. Marianne Cope.
Working under the theme "Finite time. Infinite good," Appeal volunteers from Niagara County will begin reaching out to individuals and businesses in the community to encourage their support of the Appeal, which helps fund Catholic Charities' 70 programs and services across 61 sites in Western New York along with a number of ministries through the Bishop's Fund for the Faith.
Area Appeal donors also were invited to attend the luncheon this year in gratitude for their support and to learn more about Catholic Charities and its impact on their communities. Donors from Niagara County contributed $986,129 to the 2016 Appeal.
Catholic Charities provided assistance which impacted more than 152,000 individuals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike during the past year, including more than 21,500 individuals in Niagara County.
During the workshop, a Hero of Hope Partner Award was presented to Sister Nora Sweeney for her efforts to serve those in need as a social worker at Mount St. Mary's Hospital Neighborhood Health Center in Niagara Falls. Sister Nora responded to the call to work for the poor, and has been known to link clients to additional emergency assistance or counseling through Catholic Charities as needed. She also makes home visits in Niagara County, offering those she visits a "hand up" by challenging and encouraging them.
In addition, James Baker shared how Catholic Charities counseling made a difference in his life.
Through Catholic Charities, Baker received assistance in coping with the death of his wife, as well as financial and rental assistance.
Two important dates during the 2017 Appeal include First Report Sunday on April 2 and the culmination of Appeal Week on Palm Sunday, April 9. 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.
Among the speakers at the event were the Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo; Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, Catholic Charities diocesan director; Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer, and Kathleen Hall, Niagara County district director, Catholic Charities.
Members of the Appeal leadership team presented information about the 2017 Appeal, including what has changed, how to run a successful parish campaign and ideas for gaining new donors while also retaining previous supporters.
Bishop Malone, now in his fifth year as bishop of Buffalo, thanked the honorees and spoke about the 2017 campaign.
"We all have a finite amount of time to make a difference in the lives of those who turn to us for support," said Bishop Malone. "And while that time often feels short and the list of those who are in need grows longer, the impact we can have is infinite. As we reflect on the past year and embark on our 2017 Appeal, it's the countless stories of hope and progress created each day through the generosity of our many supporters that lead to unlimited possibilities for those we help, and for our community as a whole."
Gerard and Barbara Mazurkiewicz are chairs of the 2017 Appeal. The couple served as vice chairs for the 2016 Appeal.Other members of this year's volunteer leadership team are Rick Cronin, parish chair; Kellie Ulrich, community division chair; and Jim Dentinger and Jackie Gurney, corporate chairs.
Kellie Ulrich spoke on behalf of the Mazurkiewicz' who could not attend.
Kellie said, "Those who have helped Catholic Charities along the way serve as a reminder of this year's Appeal theme, 'Finite time. Infinite good.' As we embark on this year's campaign, I encourage all of you to give what you can while you can. Your charity and generosity will do more good than you can imagine."
Stressing the importance of donations to the Appeal, Bishop Malone spoke about the example set by this year's patron saint.
"Born in 1838, St. Marianne was raised in Utica and entered the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse where she ministered in education and health care," said Bishop Malone. "While serving as general minister of the Sisters she responded positively to a request from the king and queen of Hawaii to help treat patients with leprosy, now known as Hanson's disease. She spent 35 years on the island of Molokai until her death in 1918. Often referred to as the 'beloved mother of outcasts' and canonized in 2012, her life was one of tireless and infinite service, compassionate care, and respect for human dignity. As we launch this year's Appeal, we reflect on the words of St. Marianne who said, 'Let us make best use of these fleeting moments. They will not return.'"
A wide range of services in Niagara County are available in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and Lockport. These services include basic assistance; counseling for individuals, couples and families; Monsignor Carr Institute Children's Mental Health Clinics; Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program; Domestic Violence Offenders program; Our Kids: Parent Education and Awareness Program; and multi-systemic therapy. Catholic Charities' offices are located at four sites in Niagara Falls, 620 Tronolone Place, 644 Park Place, 256 Third St., Suite 15 and 237 Fourth Ave.; three in Lockport, Bewley Building, Market at Main, Suites 200, 300 and 450; two in North Tonawanda, 1465 and 375 Payne Ave.; and a WIC site in Lewiston, 5226 Walmore Road.
Catholic Charities has helped individuals and families in need since its founding in 1923. That 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 in 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 assesses its clients for other needs to ensure long-term success.
Catholic Charities is an excellent steward of the contributions it receives. Catholic Charities receives the highest-possible rating (four stars) from Charity Navigator for transparency and sound fiscal management. Catholic Charities also receives the highest ratings from the Council on Accreditation for quality service.
More information on Appeal 2017 will be available following the launch on Jan. 18. To make a donation, contact Catholic Charities at (716) 218-1400 or go to www.ccwny.org. You can also check out Catholic Charities on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccbuffalo and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ccbuffalo.