Archive for January, 2014

Fighting to Keep the Life She Built

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

By Alice Kenny

Seven years old when her family moved her from Mexico to Yonkers, Beatriz Rivera, now 31, does all she can to achieve the American dream.

At age 14, she began her career at the bottom rung as a bagger at a local grocery chain store.  Quickly she was promoted to cashier, then supervisor, then customer service rep, then junior accounting clerk.  Ultimately she worked as the manager’s executive assistant.

However, the work permit she received at age 17 expired years ago.  So, while she has a valid social security number and driver’s license, she also counts herself among the “Dreamers” who live both openly and in the shadows of American society.

This impacts her life in small and large ways.  For example, although she has been paying state, local and social security taxes for more than a decade, she would be ineligible to receive social security benefits.

Fortunately, Catholic Charities attorneys are helping her obtain a two-year, renewable work permit by filling out a Deferred Action Plan for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application.

Now, while working full time, she is also pursuing her associate’s degree to become a registered nurse.

Read her full story in The New York Times.

President Obama and Pope Francis to Meet; Discuss Shared Commitment to Fight Poverty

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Photos courtesy of Fabi/AFP/GettyImages and AP Photo

President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time on March 27 at the Vatican to discuss the Pope’s commitment – made manifest through Catholic Charities – to serve the basic needs of the poor, troubled, frail and oppressed of all religions.

“The President looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” said a White House news release distributed by CNN and other media outlets. Across the developed world, inequality has increased,” Obama said.

‘How can it be,’ Pope Francis wrote, ‘that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points.’

Read the full story from CNN.

 

From Super Heroes to Liturgical Dance

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Looking for Super Heroes Movement classes, African Drum instruction or just good old ballet lessons?  Check out Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Center’s new Project Performing Arts dance programs for children.

Administered by Nina Klivert-Lawson, this former performing arts director worked for 26 years at The Harbor, a well-known community organization in East Harlem.  She and her instructors collaborate with Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese Office of Black Ministry to provide classes to youth registered as members of the center.

Volunteer instructors screened by Catholic Charities’ volunteer division provide skilled instruction each Saturday at Kennedy Center.  Not surprisingly, the various dance classes – that also include drama as well as modern, liturgical, jazz and African dance – have often attracted over 70 participants ages 4 years to 18.

These new classes bring added life to this already active center. They also broaden the center’s reach to middle-school-aged children and their parents, linking them to the numerous social and social service programs offered there.   Perhaps most important, the programs expose neighborhood children to the arts while encouraging life-skill disciplines that help them perform better in school and in life.

 

Martin Luther King: “Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question”

Monday, January 20th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said  that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’”

Today, as they celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s Interfaith Day of Service, 80 Catholic and Jewish teens from Westchester are giving an answer.

Forty youth from St. Peter’s Parish in Yonkers and Holy Rosary in Port Chester will join 40 youth from UJA-Federation to provide a meal and activities for 300 persons in need at the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester.

The day starts early for these 80 teens as they set up, prepare and serve midday meals.  They will also offer art and crafts activities for children attending the event.

The day then ends as youth lead an ecumenical period of reflection; an opportunity to build community while raising hunger awareness.

The event is part of Feeding Our Neighbors, an interfaith campaign to replenish food pantries and soup kitchens that serve those in need.

“What are you doing for others?” Rev. King asked.

Join us in answering this urgent question.

 

Read more in the Daily Voice.

Feeding Our Neighbors; A United Effort to Fight Hunger

Friday, January 17th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

The Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign, initially launched by Timothy Cardinal Dolan in 2011 and run for the past two years in partnership with UJA-Federation, kicks off this interfaith initiative in a big way this Sunday, January 19, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Catholic Charities Board Member Susan Salice and Catholic Charities Special Assistant to the Director Luz Tavarez-Salazar will join with Knights of Columbus State Deputy Carmine Musumeci as well as representatives from UJA-Federation and fellow dignitaries to announce this year’s campaign.   It will run from January 26 –  February 2.

There is just one goal for Feeding Our Neighbors, that New Yorkers – no matter their faith – answer the call to feed those who are hungry and in need in our community.

A united effort to fight hunger, Feeding Our Neighbors is a response to Cardinal Dolan’s call that we all do our part to replenish the food pantries and soup kitchens in our community, which so many families in our community rely on to survive.

Now, with more than 1.7 million people in New York City living in poverty and one out of five children without enough to eat, we are prepared to collect food and funds for an additional 1,000,000 meals.  The first year we raised 500,000 additional meals. Last year the Feeding Our neighbors campaign raised close to 750,000 additional meals.

Sponsored by Catholic organizations throughout the Archdiocese of New York and managed by Catholic Charities and UJA-Federation of New York, two of the largest faith-based, not-for-profit organizations in New York, 100% of contributions to the campaign will support local food pantries that serve New Yorkers, non-Catholic and Catholic alike.

Participating organizations will load food donations on to Catholic Charities’ Mobile Food Pantry and Bronx Jewish Community Council trucks on Sunday for delivery food pantries, soup kitchens and meal programs that serve New Yorkers in need.

“I am delighted that we are partnering with old, as well as, new friends,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.”  “Thanks to all!”

Take one small action this January to help feed the hungry. Together, we can change lives.

Join us in Feeding Our Neighbors.

Check out the story on NY1.

Mayor de Blasio meets with Cardinal Dolan; Discusses Catholic Charities and work done on behalf of those in need

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Mayor Bill de Blasio met yesterday for the first time since the mayor took office to discuss how they might collaborate to foster the common good – particularly helping New Yorkers most in need.

They hope to convince Pope Francis – who the mayor called “the most powerful voice on earth on how to address inequality” — to visit the city to lend his voice to the urgent task of building a more compassionate and just New York.

“We talked a lot about Catholic Charities and the work it does on behalf of children, on behalf of people in need,” Mayor de Blasio said.

“We talked about the need to help prisoners returning to society, a whole host of areas (including affordable housing) where we have common ground and where we can work together.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, who attended the post- meeting press briefing and is serving on the mayor’s transition team, said  “I am not surprised, but still delighted, that the Mayor recognizes the tremendous good being done by our federation of Catholic Charities agencies in touching and responding to almost every human need… We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration and are already convening agencies experienced in these areas to discuss how we might best work with the new administration to expand these services and meet unmet needs.” Read Msgr. Sullivan’s full statement here.

Cardinal Dolan regularly visits Catholic Charities agencies and meets both those being served and the dedicated staff and volunteers.  Cardinal Dolan was upbeat and expressed his strong desire to work with Mayor de Blasio for the sake of the good of New York, and especially those most in need.

Hungry, Cold and Out of Options

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Hungry, cold and out of options, children and families are turning to Catholic Charities for help.

The numbers of hungry New Yorkers are frightening. One-fifth of New York City children and one-sixth of the city’s residents live in homes without enough to eat, according to statistics compiled by The New York Times.

Help us help our hungry neighbors. Please join us in our third annual Feeding Our Neighbors campaign.

With your help, our 2014 Feeding Our Neighbors campaign will replenish food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the Archdiocese. This year, the campaign will take place Sunday, January 26 – Sunday, February 2, 2014.

“I am delighted that we are partnering with old, as well as, new friends. Archdiocesan Catechetical department and Catholic Schools, The Catholic Charities Junior Board, CYO, The Knights of Columbus and the Office of Youth Ministries are among those who responded and embraced Cardinal Dolan’s call to action,” says Msgr. Kevin Sullivan. “Thanks to all!”

To fight growing hunger, we are prepared to collect food and funds for an additional 1,000,000 meals. The first year of our Feeding Our Neighbors campaign we raised 500,000 additional meals. Last year, with help from donors like you, we raised close to 750,000 additional meals.

See a full list of pantries and soup kitchens to be supported.

Join us in fighting hunger by Feeding Our Neighbors.

Taking Responsibility for a Child, Then Raising Five More

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Bridgett Webb, 47, took in her niece, Shanequa, as a newborn. Ms. Webb, who had a daughter six years ago, also helps Shanequa, who has developmental delays, raise her four children. James Estrin/The New York Times

Twenty-three years ago, in a hospital maternity ward, Bridgett Webb made a pivotal choice.

The health of her newborn niece, Shanequa Webb, was precarious, jeopardized by the actions of Ms. Webb’s sister, the girl’s mother, who had used crack cocaine during her pregnancy. Foster care for the newborn was imminent.

“They asked me if I could care for her, and I said, ‘Can I do this?’ ” Ms. Webb, now 47, recalled. “I was standing there and the lady said, ‘I’ll give you a week.’ I decided I shouldn’t even wait a week. This is my blood, this is my niece. I walked up and the Lord just told me, ‘Take her.’ ”

The baby became a beloved daughter to Ms. Webb.

Raising her was no easy feat. Shanequa has contended with depression and developmental delays all of her life.

The rockiest moment in their relationship occurred six years ago, when they realized Shanequa, still a teen, was pregnant with twins.

Now “I look at them as if they were my very, very own,” Ms. Webb says of the dominant role she plays in bringing up her grandchildren.

Read their story in The New York Times.

Find out how Catholic Charities is helping this family thrive despite the challenges they face.

 

Torture Survivor Rebuilds Life

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Angel Franco/The New York Times Angele Nogue and her son Brandon, 9.

A once-successful business person who ran a multi-million dollar interior design firm in Cameroon, Angele Nogue was stripped of nearly all she possessed.  She lost it all, she said, in retaliation for caring for orphans and organizing marches that protested their increasing numbers caused by the country’s chaotic dictatorial policies.

Today an asylee and participant in NYU/Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture program, Ms. Nogue lost the business she built.  She lost her home and homeland.  Worst of all, she lost friends murdered by the government.

When Ms. Nogue tries to describe those who, unlike her, were unable to escape, survivor’s guilt leaves her sobbing.

Catholic Charities Refugee Social Services Program is helping Ms. Nogue rebuild her life.  It provides her with counseling, social service support and job-readiness and placement services.  Catholic Charities also provided her with metro cards to attend job interviews.  And it provides her family with coats, clothes and essential housewares through its St. Nicholas program and food through its pantries and holiday programs.

She and her children currently live in a shelter.  Her Catholic Charities case manager is helping the family find permanent housing and will provide further support when they move into their new home.

Now feeling stronger, Ms. Nogue has begun studying to become a registered nurse at Hostos Community College.

Read Ms. Nogue’s profile in The New York Times.

Abandoned Teen Plans Army Career

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Although he is only 19, Miguel Hernandez Ford has planned out his future.

In it, he has something he has never known: a real family.

Mr. Hernandez Ford’s mother abandoned Honduras for the United States when he was young, leaving him and his younger brother in the care of his grandparents. By the time he was 7, Mr. Hernandez Ford had to work operating furniture-building equipment instead of attending school.

He still bears the physical scars from those days.

As he talks about them, he fingers a spot on his hand where an accident left a wound requiring 25 stitches. “Sometimes they would hit me,” he said of his grandparents, attempting to shrug off the memories.

When Mr. Hernandez Ford turned 15, his mother, whom he had not seen in nearly a decade, sent for him.

Once again Mr. Hernandez Ford was forced to work, this time helping to support his mother and his four half brothers and sisters. After six months, he asked to be allowed to attend school. His mother denied his request and kicked him out of the house, he said.

Fortunately, Catholic Charities, in partnership with South Bronx United and the Medical-Legal Partnership Immigrant Youth Clinic, stepped in.  They found him a home and a caregiver.  Most importantly, they provided him with legal assistance to get a green card so that he can build a life for himself.

“First I want to get my G.E.D.,” Mr. Hernandez said, “then go to the Army.”

Read Miguel Hernandez’ full story in the New York Times