We’re here to bring new life to New Yorkers in need that conquers pain, sadness and suffering.
Provide help. Create hope.
Teenagers from the streets of Washington Heights grabbed first through sixth prizes in La Plaza Beacon’s Reading for Success Contest. Designed to develop students’ reading comprehension and expand their futures, the prizes tantalized more than a dozen participants, spurring students in this low-income neighborhood to score well on the annual New York State English Language Arts (ELA) exam.
For weeks, participants completed their homework at La Plaza Beacon, part of Catholic Charities’ Alianza Division.
Contest participants then broke into teams of three or four to complete reading and comprehension quizzes and perfect their skills writing essays.
The winner not only scored a top grade on the ELA exam but a restaurant dinner as well. Second-through-sixth place winners celebrated with a pizza party.
La Plaza Beacon teens are now readying for a math contest to prepare them for the upcoming New York State Mathematics Exam later this month.
La Plaza Beacon provides a safe, supervised after-school setting for neighborhood youth. Along with tutoring and homework help, it also offers cultural activities, arts and recreation.
By Alice Kenny
We have tons of volunteer opportunities you can do from home.
Want to flex your artistic muscles?
We’re looking for volunteers to create paint-by-numbers style images. We’ll transfer your images to large canvases and get fellow volunteers to fill in the colors. When we pull the painted canvases together – voila! – we have beautiful murals that brighten our sites serving folks in need.
How about your hospitality muscles?
We need volunteers to pull together hospitality kits for folks newly arrived in the U.S.. Like hotel welcome kits on steroids, they may include in toothbrushes, soaps and other toiletries, cleaning supplies, subway maps, granola bars and other ingredients you want to pop in to welcome and help folks get their bearing.
Similarly, we’re looking for housewarming gift bags to welcome some of the 440 individuals with mental illness we serve who are moving, many for the first time in their lives, into their own supported housing home.
And here’s an opportunity to bring out your inner Martha Stewart.
Help create We-Care cards to express love, support, and encouragement for those who are struggling. Add your own personal messages of hope and cheer such as “Welcome to New York!” “Good Luck on Your Interview!” or “Happy Easter!”
Join us at Catholic Charities and vol-un-teer; [vol-uhn-teer] VERB: 1. TO PROVIDE HELP 2. TO CREATE HOPE
Old women with walkers shuffled towards the Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem last month through a foot of snow and ice. Moms with hungry children in tow herded towards its food bank.
Ted Staniecki, the center’s facilities manager, grabbed a snow shovel with Kennedy Center Director Rodney Beckford, fellow staff Hector Estrella and Jose Crisostomo, and dug and scraped until they cleared a path.
Times like these are what Ted says he likes most about his job.
It’s Ted’s low key, hands-on approach facing down hurdles that make him a hero among those who know him best.
“I don’t think enjoying my job is work,” Ted says, “so I haven’t worked a day in my life.”
The son of a Waldorf-Astoria doorman, Ted, before transferring his talents to Catholic Charities, worked his way up from middle school teacher and coach to Washington Heights Incarnation School principal.
This was “back in the days,” wrote a Daily News reporter “when the streets outside were so dangerous team members would have to dive to the sidewalk when gangsters pulled out Uzis.”
Challenges Ted braved were so extreme that news outlets across the city covered them. The Wall Street Journal wrote about how Ted, the founder, driver, assistant couch and all-around godfather of the Incarnation Angels girls CYO basketball team, brought them to city championship in 1997. Meanwhile, the team shared their home court, the Fort Washington armory shelter, with 1,400 homeless men.
The same year, The New York Times covered a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing public school teachers to provide remedial instruction to students in Catholic school classrooms. Sounds logical now, but for the prior 12 years, federal law forbid public school teachers from instructing students with special needs on Catholic school property.
So 200 of Incarnation School’s 520 students grades K – 8 would traipse out of the school for remedial help. They studied in three trailers parked nearby as drivers idled the vans for power and lights.
“We finally got some common sense,” Ted told The Times.
After retiring from Catholic schools, Ted worked as director of the West Bronx CYO Center. Then, five years ago, he came to Catholic Charities Kennedy Center.
Similar to its Harlem neighborhood, the Center, he says, needed reviving.
“Kennedy Center needed a paint job; it needed pictures; it needed people,” Ted says.
Deacon Rodney Beckford took over as Kennedy Center’s director, joining Ted and a host of supportive staff and administration to transform the once-sleepy center to one now exploding with activity. From sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, activities ranging from Harambee dance to gospel choirs, from basketball games to social service programs, fill the four-story building with song and action.
Harlem, in turn, is undergoing a similar revival. The famous Lenox Lounge reopened along with the Red Rooster restaurant. Congressmen Charlie Rangel lives across the street from Kennedy Center. Governor David Patterson and former Mayor David Dinkins live nearby.
“Kennedy fits in well helping the neighborhood heal from the tough times it’s been through,” Ted says. “Our staff is balanced – all nationalities – and people who come here just see someone who is here, who is going to help them, going to respect them.”
Join us as we celebrate World Autism Day.
Through a network of specialized services, Catholic Charities empowers and cares compassionately for the most vulnerable New Yorkers – non-Catholics and Catholics alike. The developmentally disabled child, the senior adjusting to recent blindness and the emotionally challenged adult need the intensive care and support provided by Catholic Charities to live with dignity and in safety.
“Do not fear people with Autism; embrace them,” says Paul Isaacs, a young writer with autism.
“Do not spite people with Autism; unite them.
“Do not deny people with Autism; accept them for then their abilities will shine.”
Are you or someone you know facing a physical or emotional challenge and looking for help?
Visit us at Catholic Charities and find out more.