About 40 parish volunteers, clergy, lay leaders and Catholic Charities' staff attended a volunteer training workshop on Feb. 4 to help kick off the 2017 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Erie County. The first workshop for Erie County parish volunteers was held Jan. 18 in Elma, following the morning news conference to officially start the Appeal.The event was held at Catholic Charities Montante Administrative Center in Buffalo to prepare for the 93rd annual campaign, which carries a goal of $11 million. The patron saint for the 2017 Appeal is St. Marianne Cope.
Working under the theme "Finite time. Infinite good," Appeal volunteers from Erie 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.
Donors from Erie County contributed $7.5 million 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 114,000 individuals in Erie County.
During the workshop, a Hero of Hope Partner Award was presented to John Kelley, store manager, and Denise Watroba, assistant manager, both of the Dollar General store on Union Road in Cheektowaga, for their efforts on behalf of Catholic Charities' programs benefitting emergency assistance clients. The store, under the direction of John and Denise, has conducted toy drives for several years and a canned good drive in recent years for Catholic Charities.
"The most recent drives brought more than 1,600 cans of vegetables to our eight food pantries, and $2,100 in toys for our clients' families before Christmas for the work of the Ladies of Charity and the Western New York Holiday Partnership," said Eileen Nowak, Parish Outreach and Advocacy Department director. "John and Denise are so community-minded and very generous; they help us order items of a specific need and are very diligent about saving us money."
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 other 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, chief executive officer; and Barbara Mazurkiewicz, co-chair of the 2017 Appeal with her husband, Gerard.
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."
2017 Appeal Chairs Jerry and Barb Mazurkiewicz 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.
Barb Mazurkiewciz 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 are provided in Erie County, including children's services, older adult services, food pantries, counseling and comprehensive behavioral health services, immigration and refugee assistance, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program, and workforce and education services.
Catholic Charities operates out of 37 offices in Erie County, including 23 in the City of Buffalo and locations in Amherst, Cheektowaga, Getzville, Hamburg, Kenmore and Lackawanna.
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.
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.