Archive for August, 2012

I am Running for Team Catholic CharitiesNY – And I am Running for Jack, My Son with Autism

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

By Michele Lawton

Yesterday, I ran 19 miles in 85 degree heat on a training run for the NYC ING Marathon on November 4. Half way through the run, when the ache and fatigue started to set in, and I was soaked to the skin with sweat, I thought to myself “Why am I doing this?” Then, as always, I smiled to myself and thought, “Because it is for Jack.”

Jack is my 22 year old son and he is severely affected with autism. As a young child, he had no eye contact and no receptive or expressive language. He flapped his hands, screeched, ran in circles and had tantrums.  He had no interest in his siblings. A simple trip to the grocery store was a nightmare. As he grew, he began to have self- injurious behaviors and other behavior challenges. He hit himself in the head and hit his head on objects. There was no school or program which could help Jack at the time. No doctors had any answers. No local educators had any answers.

At the age of 7, Jack broke a window in our kitchen with his head. His behavior challenges and needs became so overwhelming, that we had to find a residential program where he could safely learn and thrive. Fortunately, we found The New England Center for Children (NECC) in Massachusetts. There he has learned to use a voice box to communicate, he is now happy and social, his eyes light up when he sees his family, he has learned independent living skills, enjoys leisure activities, and over his many years there his rates of challenging behavior have come down significantly. NECC probably saved his life.

Then last year, at 21 years of age, Jack aged out of his placement at NECC.

And Jack was not the only adult in New York State who was aging out of a student residential program and needed adult residential placement. When Jack was diagnosed at three, the incidence of autism was 5 in 10,000. Now it is 1 in 88.

It is funny how God provides opportunities for you and it is your job to take those opportunities. So at a neighborhood dinner party we were telling our story about our need to create a group home for Jack to our good friends, Mary Ann and Ken Dempsey. Ken Dempsey, CFO of Catholic Charities of NY, said to us, “I think Catholic Charities would be interested in doing that, Michele. Let me get you in touch with the right people.”

I will never forget that first meeting with Catholic Charities of NY. My husband and I met with Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, CEO, and some of his staff. We explained our situation and explained that Jack would soon have nowhere to live because the state had little funding for residential placements in general, and Jack needed a specialized residential placement that offered the program, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)– a key to Jack’s learning success.  No such program existed in New York State at that time.

I will never forget what Monsignor Sullivan said to me that day – “You need help. We will help you.” I had never heard those words in 21 years.  And I soon learned that that is what Catholic Charities does every day for all people who need their help in all different capacities.  They help without condition, without qualification, and without exception.

So again why am I running the NYC ING Marathon this year?  Because I am on the Catholic Charities of NY inaugural team and Catholic Charities of NY has taken over for my son Jack where the New England Center for Children has left off. After 2 years of hard work, Cardinal McCloskey Community Services (CMCS) in Valhalla, NY, an umbrella agency under Catholic Charities of NY, has created, with the partnership of the four families of the residents, a residential program in Ossining, NY for Jack and 3 other autistic adults. They have worked diligently and tirelessly to create a program both at Day Habilitation and in their residential setting, which uses ABA as the teaching method for these adults. Now these adults have the opportunity to continue their journey in life to be the best that they can be.

I have run 3 marathons in my life to date. I will run another marathon on Sunday, November 4, 2012, for Catholic Charities and for Jack and for all autistic individuals everywhere. No matter how hard a training run is or how grueling a marathon experience, it will never be as hard a struggle as it is for my son Jack as he strives every day to perform his life tasks as independently as he can in our world. I will always run for Jack. Every day is a marathon for him.


I will never forget what Monsignor Sullivan said to me that day – “You need help. We will help you.”

Learn more about Team Catholic Charities NY

Support  Michele’s fundraising goal for Catholic Charities and cheer her on as she trains for the 2012 ING NYC Marathon.

Rockland County Inaugural Hunger Awareness and Action Week

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Catholic Community Services in Rockland County –along with a core group of representatives from Rockland county-based organizations that work to feed the hungry — are using National Hunger Awareness Month, September 2012, as a springboard to call attention to local needs and local organizations working to combat hunger.

They are proclaiming September 6 – September 13 as Rockland County’s inaugural “Hunger Awareness and Action Week” to increase donations to food pantries and feeding programs and step up efforts to raise awareness of the issue of hunger.

Click here to learn more about Hunger Awareness Action Week events that you can join to help feed the hungry.

Looking for Work? Cardinal Dolan Adds His Endorsement to Grace Institute’s Free Job Training Classes

Monday, August 27th, 2012

His Excellency, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, visited Grace Institute in Manhattan on August 14 to lend his support to this Catholic Charities affiliate that, for more than a century, has provided tuition-free business skills job training for more than 100,000 women in need.

Classes that Grace Institute provides in keyboarding skills, the hands-on experience it offers with Microsoft Office Suite programs Word, Excel, Power Point, Access and Outlook, and its job placement success rate make the Institute’s offerings particularly valuable now during this tightened employment market.

  • Click here to see if you or someone you know may qualify for Grace Institute’s tuition-free classes.
  • Click here to read the profile of Ivonne Diaz and learn how Grace Institute helped her.

Avoid Scams; Get Correct Information about Deferred Action

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan joined New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, the Consuls General of seven nations, the President of the New York State Bar Association and others at the Catholic Center, 1011 First Ave., New York City on August 15th to announce initiatives designed to make sure that young people eligible for the New York State Childhood Arrival Deferred Action Program take full advantage without being exploited by scammers.

Certain young people, known as “DREAMers,” who were brought to the United States as children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet specific criteria (see below) can now apply, effective August 15, 2012, for Deferred Action, which is temporary relief from removal (deportation) from the United States or from being placed in removal proceedings and which, if granted, will provide work authorization and the ability to attend college.

Speakers at the event stressed the importance of obtaining correct information about Deferred Action to avoid scams and to understand eligibility for this benefit. New York State reports that it has already received notifications about con artists trying to take advantage of young people, charging money for services that may not be provided, and risking young peoples’ chance to take advantage of this opportunity.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York is ready to help. Individuals seeking more information and seeking service providers as well as schools, churches, and other community-based organizations interested in scheduling presentations about deferred action can call Catholic Charities at the New York State New Americans Hotline, 1-800-566-7636, (formerly known as the New York State Immigration Hotline.)

Interest has been intense. Nearly 500 young immigrants and their representatives phoned this hotline the first day applications were taken. Callers receive help in 17 different languages.

“Basic fairness coupled with sound economics tells us to make good investments in the future workforce of New York,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities new York. “DREAMers want nothing more than to develop their talents in this country and State – the only one they know and call home.”

  • Avoid Scams. Get correct information in 17 languages: Call Catholic Charities at the New York State New Americans Hotline, 1-800-566-7636.
  • Click here to read more information about the hotline.
  • Click here to see if you or someone you know is eligible to apply
  • Link to the New York State Childhood Arrival Deferred Action Program website clearinghouse.
  • Please help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, hashtag #NYnewamericans

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness: HomeBase and How You Can Help

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Catholic Charities is helping mark the 25th anniversary of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation to address homelessness, with the expansion of the Catholic Charities HomeBase program.

The McKinney-Vento Act, landmark legislation when it was first enacted in July 1987, helps homeless men, women and children break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. At HomeBase, a city-wide program prompted by the Act, families and individuals receive key support to prevent them from drifting into homelessness and to develop plans for long-term housing stability.

Support for Catholic Charities HomeBase comes in part from the McKinney-Vento Act and its Emergency Solutions Grant for homeless-prevention services to families without children and single adults. The bulk of funding comes from the Emergency Assistance to Families (EAF) program to supports assistance to families with children.

Eligible Services for Families with Children:

• Case management
• Emergency Financial Assistance
• Job Training
• Financial education
• Mediation
• Budgeting

Eligible Services for families without children and single adults

• Housing relocation and stabilization services
• Rental Assistance

Please watch and listen to how Catholic Charities feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless and learn how you can help.

The Power of Love Turns Life Around

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

By Alice Kenny

When Patrice Mbekeli first came to Catholic Charities he had just escaped torture in his native Cameroon, was penniless and slept on subway cars. After the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement staff teamed up with the New York Times Neediest Cases campaign to publicize his plight, Patrice was offered work, a home and a ticket to his family’s future.

Last month, Patrice wrote Catholic Charities to let us know that he is on track to receive his PhD. as a pharmacist. “I am the pure product of your love and commitment,” he wrote. “Only the power of love can completely turn around a life as it happened to mine.”

Read more about how, with your help, Catholic Charities teams up with the New York Times Neediest Cases Campaign and helps turn lives around. 

Peter Pan Child Shares Her Gift

Monday, August 13th, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Clara Salas, the cheerful voice at the other end of the Catholic Charities NY Information and Referral Help Line, spoke recently about her cloak-and-dagger childhood. It includes brushes with Castro’s Cuba, clandestine intervention by the CIA and critical support from Catholic Charities.

Clara, at age 14, was spirited into the United States in 1961 as part of CIA project code name Operation Peter Pan. The operation flew more than 14,000 Cuban children into the U.S. after rumors spread that Fidel Castro’s Communist government planned to kidnap Cuban sons and daughters from their parents and send them to Soviet military and labor camps.

Similar to many of her fellow “Peter Pan children,” Clara received support from Catholic Charities after she arrived. It paid her tuition and room and board at Catholic high school academies and ensured that her needs were met until her parents finally escaped from Cuba five years later. Since then, Clara has rebuilt her life. A United States citizen since 1971, she was elected executive secretary for Community Board 4 in Queens, sits on the Elmhurst Hospital Community Advisory Board and plans to complete a doctorate degree in social work at Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

“Life takes strange turns,” Clara said. “Now, at Catholic Charities, I get to give people the guidance and comfort I received when I was a child and first arrived here.”

Please call the Catholic Charities Help line at: 888-744-7900 or click here to learn more.

Dominican Sisters Family Health Services Host South Bronx Children at Upstate Picnic

Friday, August 10th, 2012

More than 300 children and adults from the South Bronx participated in Dominican Sisters Family Health Services’ (DSFHS) annual Summer Outing in Ossining, NY on July 13. For the hundreds of low-income clients served by this Catholic Charities affiliate, the trip was a welcome relief from oppressive city heat. As the poorest urban Congressional District in the United States, the South Bronx is plagued by many social challenges, including high levels of poverty and violence and low levels of literacy and education. For many of the children participating in the DSFHS Summer Outing, the trip was the first and only time they were able to leave their South Bronx neighborhood this summer.

Rented school buses transported clients and staff to the grounds of Mariandale Retreat Center, along the banks of the Hudson River. They were welcomed by DSFHS staff and local volunteers and encouraged to take in the scenery, walk barefoot, swim, and spend some relaxing time outdoors with family in friends.

For more than thirty years, DSFHS has invited the South Bronx children and families who they serve to participate in a day of games, recreation, swimming, and food at the organization’s Headquarters.

Dominican Sisters Family Health Service is a non-profit home health agency that provides compassionate, comprehensive and family-focused care to persons of all ages, means and faiths. DSFHS programs and services, as well as its licensed affiliate agency, Family Home Health Care, Inc., promote health, independence and quality of life for its patients and clients. DSFHS is a long-time partner of Catholic Charities and has been a leader in providing and coordinating social services specifically in the South Bronx for more than 90 years.

John Phelan, Chairman of Catholic Charities Board of Trustees, Dies at 81

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

John J. Phelan Jr., chairman of Catholic Charities Board of Trustees and former chair of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), died Aug. 4 in New York. He was 81.

John Phelan

Mr. Phelan led the Exchange through the October 1987 stock crash and was lauded for his cool leadership during that crisis. He joined the Catholic Charities board in 1985 and was appointed chair in 2002.

“Mr. Phelan brought insight, integrity and compassion to his role as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities. “His commitment of time and energy was genuinely appreciated by his fellow trustees and those of us who worked at Catholic Charities.

“He understood well the complementary roles of governance and management in an effective nonprofit organization. Catholic Charities’ strength today and its growth over the past decade are directly attributable to John Phelan’s leadership. New Yorkers of all religions who are in need owe a tremendous debt to his efforts.”

Read more in Catholic New York