Archive for January, 2013

Catholic Charities Provides 1000s of Holiday Meals in Hurricane-Ravaged Neighborhoods

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Thanks to support from the Mayor’s Fund Holiday Meal mini-grant and other generous donations, Catholic Charities provided 1,000 meals, warmth and support throughout the holiday season to those struggling in the Staten Island Hurricane Sandy Recovery Zone.

Catholic Charities served dinner to 682 people including victims of Hurricane Sandy, day laborers and their families, and low-income residents and gave toys to children at the CYO Center at Anderson Avenue in Staten Island on the Friday before Christmas, December 21, 2012.

Then, on Christmas Day, Catholic Charities hosted a sit-down dinner for more 300 people including day laborers and their families at the same location.  The multi-course meal included everything from turkey to apple pie and was donated and served by Young Israel and Temple Emmanuel.  After the meal, guests received gifts of clothing and toys.

On New Year’s eve and day, Catholic Charities delivered 6,000 meals to families in the Hurricane-ravaged Midland Beach neighborhood to reach those hardest hit by the super storm.

To top off the holiday, Catholic Charities celebrated Three Kings Day – El Dia de Los Reyes – by serving up a light traditional Mexican meal to 316 people on January 3 at the CYO Center.  After the meal, three “kings” distributed toys and books to the children as well as clothing and toiletries to those in need.

The holidays have come to a close but need continues.

Would you like to help? Donate today, or sign up to volunteer.

Day Laborers Celebrate Their Heritage With Three Kings Party

Monday, January 7th, 2013


 

By Alice Kenny

On Saturday, January 5th, Obreros Unidos de Yonkers held their annual Three Kings Party to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Timothy Cardinal Dolan joined over 300 members and their families for an Epiphany Vigil Mass at St. Peter’s Church and a celebration afterward.

The Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, is widely celebrated in the Hispanic community with parties, gifts and a special pastry called rosca de reyes (kings’ ring). Catholic Charities staff and volunteers, including the Sisters of Charity, helped at Saturday’s party by serving dinner, distributing toys to children and giving gifts to the registered workers.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Janet Hernandez, the community organizer who staffs the Obreros Unidos program and Father Lino Otero, the pastor of St. Peter’s parish, all participated in the celebration, along with Yonkers Mayor Michael Spano.

“This is a great opportunity to celebrate the contribution that immigrants are making,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan. “Their faith, industriousness and commitment to family are values that inspire us all. Catholic Charities is both proud and privileged to be part of this community and provide needed help that creates a future of hope for these workers and their families.”

Obreros Unidos (Workers United) is a group of approximately 300 day laborers in the Yonkers area that works with Catholic Charities on projects throughout the year. For example, after Sandy hit, Obreros Unidos members volunteered to remove crumbling sheet rock and pull out ruined furniture from Staten Island houses destroyed by the storm. Catholic Charities also provides multiple services for the group, including educating workers on employment rights and responsibilities in order to prevent exploitation and abuse.

Ignoring Limitations and Aiming to Inspire

Monday, January 7th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Otis Hampton, who has cerebral palsy and was abandoned at birth, once walked 40 miles in Manhattan and swelled with pride when he reached his destination.

Not only does Mr. Hampton, 22, refuse to accept limitations, but he also strives to inspire others.

“I feel like when I take walks, or when I’m walking in general, there may be a kid I know with cerebral palsy who’s been wanting to take a step without falling that finally gets up out of his or her wheelchair and takes those steps for the first time,” he said.

Mr. Hampton lives at Create, a shelter for homeless young men affiliated with Catholic Charities.

Read his story published in The New York Times.

Immigration Change to Ease Family Separations

Friday, January 4th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

“Obama administration officials unveiled rules on Wednesday that will allow many American citizens — perhaps hundreds of thousands — to avoid long separations from immediate family members who are illegal immigrants as they apply to become legal residents.” Read more from The New York Times.

Catholic Charities helps immigrants and refugees reunite with family members in two ways: through the legal immigration process, and through the refugee resettlement process. In both programs, highly skilled staff helps family members navigate the complicated rules and applications required by the U.S. government for family members to enter the United States.

If you need help in finding the services you need, please call Catholic Charities at the New York State New Americans Hotline,1-800-566-7636.

 

 

“We got nothing,” He said. “We’ll take anything you can give us.”

Friday, January 4th, 2013

By Jeanne McGettigan, Catholic Charities Director of Emergency Food Services

On New Year’s Eve, Catholic Charities Emergency Food Services Department enlisted our Mobile Food Pantry staff and volunteers to distribute 6,000 meals in Midland Beach, a Staten Island neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Three staff and four volunteers rose early in the morning to pack bags at our delivery location in the Bronx, while another staff member waited for 26 cases of frozen chickens to be unloaded at the distribution site in Midland Beach, St. Margaret Mary Church.  In addition, one staff member stopped by our Staten Island office at Anderson Avenue to pick up 100 children’s books to distribute to children who stopped by. By 11am, the Mobile was parked in the lot of the parish, at 560 Lincoln Avenue.

A steady stream of residents arrived. Some had heard from their pastor, others from fliers given out at the nearby Restoration Center.  One woman said that she had just gotten a small electric oven, and she would cook her first meal in it with some of the items.  Residents who were still not able to cook were glad for ready-to-eat items such as apple cider, tuna, cream cheese, bread, romaine lettuce, and oranges.

Jim Reagan, head of the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society, offered to drive staff around to some of the still-devastated areas to check in and offer help.  It was sad to go block after block and find so many houses empty, their former residents staying elsewhere.  However, when we did find occupants at home, they were very grateful for assistance.

One man invited us into his humble bungalow, stripped down to the studs.

“We’ve got nothing” he said.  “We’ll take anything you can give us.”

Another family of six sent their two teenagers out to carry in armfuls of food.

One resident said, “I’m ok.  Give it to someone who needs it.”  A few minutes later, he was back. “I have a friend I can bring this to.  I’ll take a bag.”

By mid afternoon, over half of the bags had been distributed and the numbers of recipients had slowed.

Staff then contacted Tony Hall, of STAR (Small Town America Recovers) with a restoration hub set up at Midland and Kiswick.  Tony has been running a grass roots effort since the earliest days after the hurricane.  He agreed to take the remaining food and distribute it from his tent.

By the time we arrived to do the drop-off, a line had already gathered.  There was a family there: mother, father and child who had lost everything and were so grateful for the food that they received. They let me know that they had to abandon their home for the time and were living with their father in-law. A home of one suddenly became a house of four and food and money were scarce so they were happy to take some of the ‘burden’ from their father, if only for a few meals. When we checked in with Tony a few days later, he confirmed that all of the remaining food had been distributed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to residents of Midland Beach.

Bad Neighborhood, Good Children & a Mom Who Keeps Them Safe

Friday, January 4th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Gunfire and police sirens punctuate the soundtrack of the streets outside Yoshita Childress’s home, an apartment that offers frequent views of middle-of-the-night brawls and arrests.

To keep her children, Syrene, 15, and Syrus, 14, safe, Ms. Childress insists that they stay busy with after-school activities, or remain largely confined to the apartment.

Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers, an affiliate of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, provides them with safe outlets while opening up to them a world of opportunities.

Read their story published in The New York Times.

Hurricane Sandy: It’s Just Stuff; Nothing Follows That Hearse

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

When Mary Ferris’ husband, a New York City police officer, died of a heart attack at age 40, leaving the young widow with three children to raise, she felt stranded, alone and totally unprepared.

She relived those feelings, she said, when Hurricane Sandy tore through the white bungalow home where she had lived for 46 years.  But compared with losing her life’s partner, she said, Sandy was just a bump in the road.

Yet she couldn’t help but compare the tragedies.  In both cases she had done everything right.  She loved her husband, treasured her children and followed experts’ advice on how to keep them healthy and happy.

And she loved her home and followed experts’ advice there as well.

“People hear about what happened to us and say ‘why did you live so close to the water?’” she says.  “But I didn’t.  I lived 10 blocks away yet when the hurricane hit, it was like a tsunami going through.  You couldn’t outrun it.”

Fortunately, she evacuated the morning before the super storm hit.  Had she stayed, she would probably be dead.

When she returned after the storm, she found her first-floor bedroom filled from floor to ceiling with water.  Floating furniture barred the door.

Ignoring the stink of sewage mixed with salt water, diesel and gasoline, her children, now grown, teamed up with a nephew, brother in law and volunteers she never before met.  They threw out the sodden furnishings, ripped out the walls, power washed the house and shock waved it with chemicals to destroy mold.  Her home parish, St. Margaret Mary’s, gave her a small grant.

“It’s just stuff,” she says as she looks at garbage bags piled high with broken china, family photos; everything she once owned.  “Some day Jesus calls you by name and you can’t bring that stuff with you.  Nothing follows that hearse.”

Venezuelan Finds Asylum & Career in New York

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

It is very difficult for Maria Marquez, 33, to talk about her past. She can be specific about certain things, but not many. The danger just feels too real.

“I’m afraid,” Ms. Marquez said anxiously in her Elmhurst, Queens, apartment, an intensity in her eyes. “There have been kidnappings. People killed.”

A refugee from Venezuela, Ms. Marquez turned to Catholic Charities for help.
Read her story published on Sunday in The New York Times.