Archive for May, 2013

Calling all Bible Series TV fans

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

  • Check out JustLove’s radio interview with the famed miniseries’ coproducer and actress Roma Downey.
  • Find Out inside info about this epic 10-hour television series.
  • Win a novel based on the show.

Want to win?  Just correctly answer one of the daily trivia questions we’re posting on Facebook during the next two weeks.

Enter the contest now.

Questions are based off of Msgr. Kevin Sullivan’s interview with Roma Downey and his upcoming interview with Dan Polotta author of Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up For Itself and Really Change the World.  Winners will be selected from a random drawing.

For those new to the show, The Bible Series is based on the story everyone knows and told like never before.  Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Shark Tank, Celebrity Apprentice) coproduce the series.

Tune in to JustLove with Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities New York, on The Catholic Channel 129, SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio.

JustLove, aired weekly on Saturday at 10 am EDT and Sunday at 5 am EST, features conversations about the church in the world to promote a just and compassionate society.

CYO: Bball, Service and So Much More

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Catholic Charities’ Monge Codio — known best, perhaps, for Catholic Charities-sponsored pilgrimages he made to Haiti to help those hurt by the 2010 earthquake disaster and the American Haitians for Economic Advancement & Development program he founded — celebrated his three-year anniversary as Director of Operations for CYO’s Hudson Valley Region during a live broadcast last week on AM1300 WRCR.

He spoke not only about ongoing help for folks still reeling from the Haiti disaster but also about a host of activities and initiatives offered by Catholic Charities CYO.

For example, more than 17,000 youth participate in CYO NY’s basketball program alone.

Yet CYO offers far more than the basketball program for which it is best known, said this former college basketball coach whose resume includes stints coaching at Concordia, Iona and Northeastern University.

CYO serves children from third through eighth grade and offers, for example, art and essay contests, scouting, retreats, track and field contests, soft ball and even a special golf program for children with developmental disabilities.

“We welcome everyone,” Monge said.

Check Monge out live on AM 1300 WRCR . The link is slow but it’s worth the wait.

Read more about Monge’s trip to Haiti in Catholic New York.

Would you like to volunteer to help run an existing CYO program or help start a new one? Contact Monge at 212-271-1000 x 2058.

Celebrating Children’s Mental Health

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

The New York State National Alliance on Mental Illness honored Astor Services for Children & Families’ Early Head Start Program, an affiliate of Catholic Charities NY, on May 7 for their work successfully addressing the issues of children’s mental health.  This includes early identification, outreach, family education, providing mental health awareness in schools, and successfully intervening on behalf of afflicted children and their families. Astor Services received this award during a reception at the 2013 “What’s Great in Our State – A Celebration of Children’s Mental Health Awareness,” at the New York State Museum in Albany.

Astor’s Early Head Start Program serves over 200 infants, toddlers and their families in seven sites across Dutchess County.  Astor has operated the Head Start Program in Dutchess County since 1978 and later assumed responsibility for the Early Head Start Program. Head Start and Early Head Start are federally-funded programs for low-income families.

The children in Astor’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs receive mental health screening through collaboration with Astor’s Hudson Valley Behavioral Health & Prevention Programs. This program provides early identification and intervention of social emotional problems in children, ages 2 to 18, through the Child and Family Clinic Plus Program (Clinic Plus). This program is a state-wide initiative by the Office of Mental Health to furnish mental health services for children and families.

“On behalf of the children, families and staff, I am delighted to receive this recognition,´ said Mary Sontheimer, Assistant Executive Director, Astor Services for Children & Families, Early Childhood Programs.  “These are the issues at the core of our Early Head Start Program: social emotional development, health relationships and positive attachments for children. All stakeholders in our program play a critical role in ensuring optimal mental health and positive self-esteem.”

Dinner Theatre Morphs into Magic

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Dennis Scimone, Director of Residential Services for Beacon of Hope House with Denise Bauer Director, Beacon of Hope House

By Alice Kenny

Hosted by and for consumers with mental illness, the Catholic Charities Beacon of Hope annual talent show and dinner theatre– now in its twenty-eighth year — is always packed with creativity, comedy and fun.

But this year’s show held at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem on May 1 went over the top thanks to a last-minute rendition of “God Bless America” belted out by the Harlem Alumni Boys and Girls Choir.

Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center is always a hopping place.  Dance classes, music, theatre and social service programs fill this central Harlem meeting spot day in and day out from its basement to its top floor.

Sometimes the synergy morphs into magic, as it did on Talent Show night.

Ninety consumers along with family and friends from Beacon of Hope residential programs and its vocational club house had already feasted at the dinner theatre event as fellow consumers emceed and regaled them with a fashion show, songs, dances, original poetry, and outstanding music played on the guitar, drums and harmonica.

A special night like this, however, seemed to need something extra, said Damian Buzzerio, who helped coordinate a team of five volunteers that helped at the event.  That’s when the Harlem Alumni Boys and Girls Choir that had been training in their usual rehearsal room, made their surprise appearance.  As their special gift to this special group, the choir trooped on stage and belted out God Bless America.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to find such a special and safe place for events such as these to flourish,” says Debbie Ciraolo, an American Sign Language interpreter with Beacon of Hope who assisted with the show.  “I cherish this experience.”

Join us to find a “special, safe place” that recognizes your talents and creativity.

 Click here to find a volunteer opportunity tailored just for you.

Mothers Day Makeover

Friday, May 10th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Accustomed to hard work, scant funds and dreams only of their children’s futures, 15 wives and relatives of day laborers instead received free haircuts, makeovers and all-round pampering on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 in the St. Peter’s Parish gym in Yonkers, in preparation for Mothers Day.

The women belong to a mothers group associated with Obreros Unidos De Yonkers, a group of approximately 300 day laborers in the Yonkers area.

The women received haircuts free of charge provided by two hairstylist/salon owners who are also parishioners of St. Peter’s Parish.  They also received a make-up lesson and application by a Mary Kay representative.  And two of the recipient moms, far more accustomed to giving than receiving, opted to donate their cut hair to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss.

The Mothers Day celebration was part of Catholic Charities’ ongoing involvement with Obreros Unidos De Yonkers, a group of approximately 300 day laborers in the Yonkers area. Through this program, Catholic Charities educates workers on employment rights and responsibilities in order to prevent exploitation and abuse. Catholic Charities also assists in the collection of unpaid wages, helps workers get access to healthcare services, provides emergency food, and offers English language and computer skills instruction.

Looking for more information about Obreros Unidos de Yonkers?

Call (914) 375-6729/48 or visit the office at St. Peter’s Church basement, 91 Ludlow Street, Yonkers, NY  10705

Call the Catholic Charities Help Line — (888) 744-7900 — for help finding services you need.

Wishing you a wonderful Mothers Day!


Join Us at Our New Food Pantry and Help Feed the Hungry

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

We’re opening a new food pantry site at St. Margaret Mary Church on Staten Island this Friday, May 10th, and we’re looking for volunteers.

Tasks can include:

1. Setting up a client choice pantry outside on folding tables. This will require moving cases of food weighing 20-50 lbs.  A hand truck will be available.

2. Greeting the clients of the pantry, providing information and maintaining an orderly flow of people.

3. Breaking down the tables and putting the food away.  This will involve some use of stairs and carrying cases of food.

We will  also be looking for volunteers willing to help at this new site through June. More postings will be made for future dates.

Please share with your friends and sign up to help the hungry.


Fidelis Care Provides Grant to Help Serve Needy New Yorkers

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

From Left to Right: George Rodriguez, Fidelis Care NY Director of Marketing; Mark Sclafani, Vice President, Marketing; Pamela Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer; Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Catholic Charities Executive Director; Beatriz Diaz Taveras, Executive Director CCCS

By Alice Kenny

Fidelis Care, a partner with Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS) for nearly a decade, donated $509,000 to Catholic Charities on May 3, 2013 to further the two agencies’ aligned mission to serve the poor and needy of New York.

This partnership has proved particularly important in light of the punishing impact the lasting effects the economic recession and deep cuts in social service programs have had on families in need.

  • One in every six New Yorkers – 1.4 million of our neighbors – now relies on daily emergency food.
  • More than half are employed yet still cannot manage to make ends meet with their earnings.  Close to 9,700 families with 15,000 children sleep in homeless shelters.

These numbers indicate what Catholic Charities already knows.  Poverty is not merely the lack of adequate financial resources.  Instead, it entails a profound deprivation, a denial of full participation in the economic, social and political life of society and an inability to influence decisions that affect one’s own life.  It means being powerless in a way that assaults not only one’s pocketbook but also one’s fundamental human dignity.

Fidelis Care is the New York State Catholic Health Plan, providing health coverage to children and adults in 58 counties statewide. The mission of Fidelis Care is to ensure that every resident, regardless of income, age, religion, gender, or ethnic background, has access to quality health care and is provided with dignity and respect. Through partnerships with providers, schools, and community agencies like Catholic Charities New York, Fidelis Care works to foster healthier futures for members and their families.

Now as more and more individuals and families seek help, the Fidelis Care grant assists Catholic Charities Community Services as we continue to respond as we always have, with professional case management services across the ten counties of the Archdiocese of New York that alleviate crises and set families and individuals on a path toward stability.

Volunteers Put Down Their Frying Pans and Had a Feast

Monday, May 6th, 2013

On the very last, most beautiful day of April 2013, 143 tireless workers put down their frying pans, serving trays, aprons, and hand trucks to feast and be celebrated.  From the farthest corners of the Bronx to the Lower East Side, volunteers from food pantries and soup kitchens  supported by Catholic Charities Community  Services gathered at the Triangle Building of Alianza for the first-ever Volunteer Appreciation Event held in their honor.

The same men and women who, earlier that day, were packing 200 bags of food or scrubbing pots, got the chance to sit down to a catered meal while CCCS staff called out name after name of volunteer chefs, food packers, inventory specialists, and data base managers.  In all, 46 program coordinators and long-time volunteers from 14 different programs came up to the podium to receive certificates from Monsignor Kevin Sullivan.  Honors were given for years of service ranging from 20 to 36 years, and for those special volunteers who worked “Above and Beyond”, as their certificates stated.   These included senior Maria Sanchez, founder of St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen in the Bronx, who has been leading the program for 20 years, and young Walter Martin, who uses his free time in between job interviews to work for no less than 4 different pantries.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for so long” said Jeanne McGettigan, Director of Emergency Food Services.  “Monsignor Sullivan and Staci-Jo Bruce, Director of Volunteer Services were the ones who finally made it happen.  It was so moving to see all of these generous, hard-working people gathered together in one place.  We really are one big team, but we don’t often get to see ourselves that way.”

Ms. McGettigan said the event organizers were particularly pleased that CCCS staff was able to make these activities completely bi-lingual.  Well over 50% of the volunteers in attendance consider Spanish their first language.  To make sure that all felt included, everything from invitations, to program cards and presentations by speakers was carried out in Spanish and English.  Project Manager Lizaura German emceed and translated as needed.  Monsignor Sullivan and Beatriz Diaz Taveras, Executive Director of CCCS traveled comfortably between languages as they thanked the volunteers for their steadfast efforts to beat back hunger in their communities.

Also delivering a rousing speech in two languages was special guest Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez of Washington Heights and Inwood.  Remembering how, during his childhood, his own family had sometimes needed food assistance, he told the volunteers that he “didn’t think twice” about dedicating Council discretionary funds to the busy CCCS pantry nearby his office.

An additional service award was presented to Christopher Melito of Credit Suisse, recognizing the company’s Day of Service, which brought 20 corporate employees to a CCCS food pantry for the day to prepare and demonstrate healthy cooking methods and give pantry customers the equipment to carry out the same practices in their own kitchens.

The feeling in the room was so joyful, and the cumulative effect of hearing story after story of faith in action was so moving, a number of staff and volunteers  stated their conviction that this first-ever event should now be considered an annual gathering not to be missed.

David Paterson: From Discrimination to Governor

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Celso Vera, director of Catholic Guild for the Blind, joined former Governor David A. Paterson and a host of other dignitaries at the 100-year anniversary celebration of the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped held in Albany on April 30.

Former Gov. Paterson literally leapt on to the stage at Hotel Albany where the event was held, reported the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

“Never underestimate the blind,” Gov. Paterson deadpanned to the crowd’s delight after ignoring the stairs and jumping several feet up to the podium. Paterson, who served for almost three years after Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation, was the first blind person to serve as governor in the U.S. He was also New York’s first black governor, eventually abandoning an uphill effort to get elected and clearing the way for Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Paterson shared his experience with an employer who denied him a job and the profound impact that being rejected had on him.  He described his personal experiences as a consumer of services and how he was helped to overcome the challenges of his disability.  And he credited the Commission for the Blind with helping him re-gain his confidence.

Guild for the Blind, a program of Catholic Charities Community Services, has contracted with the state commission for 45 years to provide social services as well as training in employment skills, independent living, in home and mobility training for visually impaired persons.

“The Guild, along with the Commission for the Blind and other agencies in New York State, has allowed thousands of visually impaired people gain independence, making them productive members of society,” Mr. Vera said as he joined in the celebration.

Read Gov. Paterson’s powerful story.

Are you looking for help or interested in hiring a person with a visual impairment?

Contact the Catholic Guild for the Blind:
Manhattan Office: 646-794-2016 or email
Yonkers Office: 914-476-2700 or email
Poughkeepsie Office: 845-452-1400 or email


Young Teen Celebrates the Lives of Children Slain in Newtown.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Thanks to the creativity and compassion of fourteen-year-old Victoria Robustello, elementary-school children felled in the Newtown massacre will be honored along with local heroes at the upcoming CYO Club of Champions dinner.

Now in its 77th year, the upcoming CYO Club of Champions dinner scheduled for this summer celebrates individuals who provide inspiration and leadership for youth.

Victoria agreed to display her painstaking painting that depicts each of the 20 slain children floating above a cloud at the event on June 26, 2013.  She is also sending framed copies to the children’s families as well as the Sandy Hook Fire Department and school.  A $250 donation, in turn, will be given anonymously to The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Inc.  in recognition of Victoria’s painting.

A student at John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction in upstate Dutchess County, Victoria began sketching the painting on her drawing table in her bedroom shortly after the mass murder in December 2012.  She pulled up web photos of the children, and then recaptured in painting their smiling faces and the clothing they wore.

“It just broke my heart,” her mother, Pam Robustello, said, “knowing that when it would be finished there would be 20 children on that portrait that are no longer with us.”

Although Victoria acknowledges the pain she felt reproducing the children one by one, she seems to have found comfort as well.

“There will never be any answers for something so senseless,” she wrote the parents when she sent them copies of her paintings.  “But I want you to know that I pray for you daily.

“I hope you enjoy the portrait that I have made for you and that it will give you some peace in knowing that they are all angels now together, still playing still singing, still having fun.”