Archive for May, 2014

Alicia, a Foster Parent, Shares Her Pain and Gains

Friday, May 30th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Alicia already had three young children when she and her husband decided to open their hearts and home to a foster child.

So they took in a homeless, pregnant teen. But after the baby’s birth, after Alicia and her family had grown to love the teen and her baby as their own, the young girl was allowed to return to her own family.

In a video interview, Alicia shares how she and her family still miss their foster daughter deeply. And they miss the first smiles, the first words and first steps they will never see taken by their foster grandchild.

Taking in a foster child, a child often battered, bruised and cautious around all those who care, is tough. But the special love that foster parents such as Alicia provide can make all the difference in a child’s life.

To thank Alicia and fellow foster parents we are celebrating National Foster Care Month.

There are 11,000 children living in foster care in New York City, more than 400,000 nationwide. They include children abused and alone, adolescents whose lives have gone off track, families breaking apart.

These children, with troubles undeserved facing crises beyond their capacity to understand and control, find help through special foster parents such as Alicia.

All children deserve a loving, safe, and permanent family. Catholic Charities agencies are committed to reuniting children who are in foster care with their biological families whenever it is safe and appropriate. When working with some families proves unsuccessful, efforts are made to secure an appropriate adoptive family so the child can grow up in a stable, secure, and loving environment.

Learn more about becoming a foster parent.

  • Listen as Msgr. Kevin Sullivan speaks with Grace Poppe, Deputy Director of Social Services for Catholic Guardian Services about foster care on JustLove, SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129.
  • Find out  about Catholic Charities affiliated agencies that, day in and day out, provide critical support for children and families in crisis.
  • Check out Alicia’s story.

Hurricane Season is Starting

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

We finally got through winter but more terrible weather may be just ahead.

June 1st is the start of hurricane season.

Now is the time to get ready before a storm threatens our community.

As we know firsthand from Hurricane Sandy, being prepared to act quickly can be essential for survival. Even though severe weather was predicted before the hurricane hit, many said they did not have a plan and were caught unprepared.  After all, when was the last time a hurricane hit New York hard?

But now, post Sandy, we’ve learned that hurricanes happen here.

So do you know what to do if a hurricane watch is ordered?

Do you know how to evacuate if local officials call for an evacuation?

Don’t wait until a storm threatens to find out.  Get your family disaster plan together.  Find out if you’re in an evacuation zone and have an escape route planned.

Hurricane season can be unpredictable but you can take control by getting your plan ready today.

Check out these video tips from USWeather.gov and start preparing your family’s disaster plan now.

Are you still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy?

Catholic Charities operates the New York State Disaster Case Management program.

  • Are you going it alone and it is not working?
  • Are you still waiting for responses from agencies?
  • Have you been denied and do not know why?
  • Are you still living away from or in your damaged home?
  • Do you need someone to talk to?

Call us today at 855-258-0483

Help is here.

As Businesses Flee, Nuns March in to Restore Burned-Out City

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Photographed by Daniel Case

By Alice Kenny

One, sometimes two brick buildings stand lonely sentry amid rubble and rats in block after Newburgh city block.  Once home to the first Edison plant and the first city to be electrified, this Hudson River community an hour north of Manhattan is now distinguished by gangs and drug-infested violence.

Factories shuttered decades ago.  Rioters frustrated by poverty shattered store windows and burned down buildings. Those who could fled with what they had left.

But in 1983 a group of nuns–Sisters Monica McGloin and Margaret Kilpatrick of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, Monica Galligan and Suzanne LaChapele of the Little Sisters of the Assumption and Irene Freely of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace – put on work clothes, pitched their tent with the poor and founded Newburgh Ministries, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

Theirs is far from a happily-ever-after story.

“The unemployment rate among this largely Hispanic and black young male population sticks stubbornly at nearly 50 percent,” says the Ministry’s Executive Director Colin Jarvis. “The only jobs seem those born of poverty –police, welfare workers and teachers– almost all of whom commute in from somewhere, anywhere other than Newburgh.”

But the sisters and staff are not giving up. They listen to their new neighbors, march with them down dusty streets lined with buildings ready to be condemned and join in restoring their community.

Newburgh Ministries, housed first in a storefront and later in a former sewing machine factory, began small.  There the homeless, the confused and those with nowhere else to go are still welcomed as guests.  They drop by to sip warm coffee, make free phone calls searching for work and receive comfort.  They shop at a thrift store where shirts, slacks and dresses are “sold” for dimes and dollars, prices they can afford to pay with dignity.  And they let their children build castles from blocks in a playroom safe from bullets outside.

The ministry added “Winterhaven,” a shelter so visitors no longer had to huddle over night in abandoned buildings.  And they teamed with St. Mary’s College and doctors from Christ Health Care to offer a free health clinic where no insurance is needed.

“The goal, however, is not to soften the blows of poverty,” says Mr. Jarvis as folks stop by his office to say hi, “but rather to empower people to transform a community.”

So Newburgh Ministries added Project Jumpstart, a language and tutoring program that keeps youngsters from falling through education’s cracks.

And perhaps, most important, they are building micro businesses.

More than a dozen women, all minority and most unable to speak English, sit at a kitchen table on the Ministry’s second floor, weaving glass beads into earrings, necklaces and bracelets.  Their wares are documented, sold at craft fairs and turned into income for these newly minted jewelers.

Now, with help from a volunteer chef, Newburgh Ministry is kicking off “Baked Goods from the Hood” where local men and women will learn to bake, market and run an industry.

“We’re not looking for the government to solve people’s problems,” Mr. Jarvis says.  “People solve people’s problems.”

Wonder What Cardinal Dolan Ponders in the Confessional?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Who can resist Sharon Otterman’s tease this weekend in The New York Times?

“If you ever wondered what Cardinal Dolan might ponder in the confessional,” she writes, “read on.”

Wonder about our New York Archbishop’s inner thoughts?

How has Pope Francis inspired him?

How does this impact our diocese’ focus — carried out through Catholic Charities — on the key issues of poverty, inequality, prison ministry and immigration?

Your questions are answered thanks to this in-depth Q and A with Cardinal Dolan published this weekend in The New York Times:

Q.

Are you, or is the diocese as a whole, increasing focus on issues such as poverty, inequality, prison ministry and immigration?

A.

I think what has happened is that Pope Francis has made it easier for us to be heard on these issues! He has inspired many people to think more about how we care for one another, especially the “least among us.” The bishops of this country have been a leading voice on immigration reform, for many years.

I get a lot of criticism that we bishops preach too much about the immigrant, the poor, the sick, the economy. These are all areas in which the Archdiocese of New York has always been enthusiastically involved…It’s my responsibility to carry that on, just as it is my responsibility to continue and expand our work in charity, education, health care. Yes, Francis inspires me in this regard, as he has inspired people everywhere. That’s a great gift he has given us.

For more than a century, Catholic Charities has helped solve the problems of New Yorkers in need – non-Catholics and Catholics alike. The homeless family, the prisoner and the immigrant are among those for whom we provide help and create hope. We rebuild lives and touch almost every human need promptly, locally, day in and day out, always with compassion and dignity. We help your neighbors as you would like to be helped if your family were in need.

 

Download a PDF version of Catholic Charities At-A-Glance  for a look at what we do in any given year for those in need.

Read the full interview with Cardinal Dolan in The New York Times.

 

 

 

 

 

Job-Seeking Women Meet “Brag-ologist”; Learn to “Lean In”

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Catholic Charities, Grace institute at Ogilvy, Manhattan NY

Peggy Klaus asks Grace Institute students to envision a positive exchange.

by Staci Jo-Bruce

At Catholic Charities’ affiliate Grace Institute’s annual “Brag Party,” internationally known speaker, author, and self-proclaimed “Brag-ologist” Peggy Klaus this week taught a mostly female job-seeking audience that the word “Brag” does not have to be the dreaded four-letter word people make it out to be.

Yet Ms. Klaus was asked to put a “warning label” on this workshop, Grace Institute’s biggest event of the year.

Why? Because at various times during the workshops, participants participated in role- play exercises that pushed them to brag and pulled them out of their comfort zones.

But that was exactly the goal for the day.

“It only takes 7 seconds for someone to make a judgment about you,” exclaimed the 5’2” Klaus.  “Don’t expect anyone to advocate for you. If you have a story to tell, tell it with passion. Tell it with excitement.”

During the half-day workshop, more than 100 volunteers worked alongside Grace Institute students to master that all-important (and often elusive) skill – communicating with confidence.

This was a key skill the low-income unemployed women studying at Grace Institute needed to master, said Grace Institute Executive Director Shari Krull.

“Grace Institute teaches the hard skills, the essential skills and skills to nurture the soul,” Ms. Krull said.  “We give women the opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise- if they can’t do what is needed, they won’t get the job.”

Grace Institute, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has been providing tuition-free job-training skills for women in New York City for more than 100 years. The program includes intensive computer, business writing and career development classes.  It prepares students for interviews and draws on its extensive lists of employer contacts to arrange meetings and help the students find work.

Peggy, whose affect is a far cry from her diminutive stature, guided guests with a fun, high-energy, and motivational presentation. Volunteers and students worked together in pairs and groups to address two of the most difficult “soft skills” for women to master: the impostor syndrome and self-promotion.

Shinnel Simmons, Senior General Manager at Gap Inc., attended as a volunteer along with five Gap employees.

“Although we were here as volunteers to bring our experiences to this workshop, we also gained experience that we can use in our own work environment with our associates,” said Simmons.

The day ended with the entire room in a standing, Jerry Springer-esq ovation, shouting  “Peg-gy. Peg-gy.”

Said Klaus passionately, “’Brag’ is a four letter word. But ‘love’ is also and you have to love yourself enough to brag.”

Would you like to volunteer to help give those struggling a reason to brag?

Click here to find out about our latest opportunities and find what inspires you.

Are you an unemployed woman looking to brush up your skills and find a job?

Click here to learn more about Grace Institute and its tuition-free job-training programs for New York City women.

New Mom Tweets Big News

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

PCC ImagesmallBy Alice Kenny

In just 140 characters, Maria used the hashtag “Mom” to announce this week the huge news that she celebrated her parenting class graduation from Catholic Charities affiliate, Good Counsel Homes,  just in time for the arrival of her baby.

#mom Maria celebrated her @CathCharitiesNY #parenting class graduation just in time for the arrival of her #baby! pic.twitter.com/gfjRwPJkEK

Good Counsel is more than a shelter for homeless, pregnant women.  It is a supportive and loving home where the needs of the women served are met immediately and for the long term.  Programs each mom has access to are provided with the ultimate goal of leaving Good Counsel, affording each mom with the life skills training she needs to never be homeless again.  Programs include budgeting and vocational assistance, nutrition, guidance and, most important for Maria, parenting classes.

Congratulations, Maria, for graduating from Good Counsel’s Parenting Class.

All our best for you and your new baby!

While this is a happy ending, most come to Good Counsel with very tough starts.

Check out live testimonies from women helped by Good Counsel in this new video.

Every day women are abused, neglected, and lacking in maternity care and support. But there is hope: Good Counsel’s door is always open for any pregnant woman in crisis. Since 1985 it has been a home to more than 6,000 mothers and children.

Learn more about Good Counsel Homes.

Telemundo Reports Puerto Rican Parade Plans to Team with Catholic Charities to Feed the Hungry

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade to be held on June 8 under the themes of art, culture and education will also provide a chance to collect food to benefit members of this community who have no food in their homes, reports Telemundo Atlantico.

The Office of Puerto Rican Affairs along with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York called for two days of community service by holding food drives through the Archdiocesan-wide Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign.

Non-perishable food donations can be made at two of the events leading up to the parade; on May 31 at the 152 Street Festival, home to the largest Puerto Rican community in New York, and on June 1 at the annual Parade Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The goal is to raise enough funds to provide one million meals for the hungry.

Food collected will be donated under the direction of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade to food banks working with Catholic Charities.

The organization asked the public to hold food drives in churches, workplaces and schools. In addition, the GOYA Corporation plans to donate 5000 pounds of food.

Want to find out more about the upcoming National Puerto Rican Day Parade?

Read the full story in Spanish in Telemundo.

Learn more about Feeding Our Neighbors, an Archdiocesan-wide drive to replenish food pantries supporting non-Catholics and Catholics alike.

Msgr. Sullivan Supports Mayor de Blasio’s Just-Announced Plan to Fight Homelessness

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

FLOWERS10169Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration detailed plans on May 19, 2014  to expand and create what is described as the largest and most proven homelessness prevention program in the nation.  The plan, announced by Commissioner Gilbert Taylor at the budget hearing before the New York City Council, focuses on reducing homelessness, transitioning homeless families from shelter into permanent housing, and improving shelter conditions.

Catholic Charities, long a leader in preventing homelessness and serving the homeless, supports this plan.

“With today’s announcement, the Mayor has taken an important and necessary step in addressing this crisis,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.  “This multi-faceted plan includes programmatic and funding commitments to protect families from losing their homes, while creating housing opportunities for those who currently have little recourse but to spend their nights in shelters.  It contains concrete solutions to help vulnerable populations.”

Specifically, the plan:

 •    Proposes creation of two rent subsidy plans that will assist working families who have been in shelter for more than a year and vulnerable populations

 •    Utilizes targeted supportive housing for high needs populations

 •    Reaffirms the administration’s commitment to assess, improve, and reimagine shelter models to better serves families and individuals before they seek shelter, address their needs while in shelter, and strategically plans for families exiting shelter

•    Invests in better outcomes for homeless households as they achieve independence, creates and develops higher quality shelters with better targeted programming throughout the system, and it reduces reliance on shelter models that do not encourage supportive environments.

 “The blight of homelessness causes suffering to far too many New Yorkers,” Msgr. Sullivan added.  “It is unacceptable.”

Church Ready to Help Solve Housing Crisis

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

churchhousingBy RON LAJOIE

“As New York City sets forth on an ambitious task of creating 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years, the archdiocese stands as a ready, willing and able partner,” reports Ron Lajoie in Catholic New York.

That is the message Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, delivered to Mayor Bill de Blasio, on behalf of Cardinal Dolan, when the mayor unveiled his $41 billion joint initiative to refurbish or create new housing for middle- and low-income New Yorkers across the five boroughs May 5.
In announcing his support for the mayor’s plan, Cardinal Dolan had said that creating affordable housing for all New Yorkers was nothing less than a human rights issue.
‘New York City’s current crisis of housing affordability threatens the basic human right to decent housing,’ Cardinal Dolan said in a statement.
Msgr. Sullivan,who was at the news conference representing Cardinal Dolan, pointed to the more than 50 years experience the archdiocese has had in creating, constructing, preserving and rehabilitating housing for the poor, working families, seniors and those with special needs.
Through its parishes and committed clergy, religious communities, and Catholic Charities and its affiliated community-based organizations, the Church has created more than 6,000 units of affordable housing for New Yorkers.
‘We offer the city a number of things,’ explained Msgr. Sullivan during an interview with CNY in his 11th floor office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. ‘One of the very fundamental things we offer is our belief that every person is made in the image of God and deserves certain basic necessities. One of them is our belief that basic housing is a human right.
Secondly, very practically, we begin from the fact that we have put that into practice by the development and preservation of housing, which requires a certain amount of commitment and expertise and requires being around for the long term. We are an organization that has been around here for centuries and, if I might say this, we plan to be around until Jesus comes again…
The third thing we offer, and the cardinal has indicated this, is we have changing use of church facilities, so that as populations shift and we don’t need some of our properties for certain things there are new possibilities.’

Read the full story in Catholic New York.

Blind but Now I See

Monday, May 19th, 2014

‘Never in its nearly 90-year history had the National Braille Press undertaken a project as large as the one it completed in 2011,’ writes James Sullivan this recent Boston Globe article.

Creating a Braille edition of the 1,600-page “New American Bible,’’ with its freshly approved revisions by the US Catholic Bishops Conference, was something else entirely.

Commissioned by New York’s Xavier Society for the Blind, the full run, destined for private homes, consisted of 150 copies. To mark the occasion, a set was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2011.

An affiliate of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, Xavier Society for the Blind was founded in 1900 by the Jesuit priest, Rev. Joseph Stadelman, SJ, and a group of lay women as the only Catholic publishing house to make writings on religion and spirituality available to the blind.

One of its first major undertakings was to transcribe the Bible into Braille. It also became the first to transcribe the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church into Braille.

Now, as it receives U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approval, it adds Braille translations of Scripture, readings and prayers. By adding large print, records, audio cassette and most recently digital formats to its Braille offerings free of charge, Xavier Society for the Blind continues its pioneering mission of providing services so that those without sight may see.

Although the Xavier Society paid about $1,400 per copy to produce “The New American Bible,” these books are given away to families with a certified sightless person in the household, says Margaret O’Brien, the organization’s operations manager.

She adds that although mainstreaming of blind children into public schools, which began in earnest in the 1970s, served an undeniable social benefit, it significantly hurt Braille literacy. Literacy rates for blind students plunged from 50-60 percent to about 12 percent today, says National Braile Press president Brian MacDonald.

Meanwhile, with technological advances such as talking books and screen-reader software, students were being told they would no longer need to read Braille.

‘We know today that was a big mistake,’ said MacDonald.

Seventy-four percent of blind adults are unemployed, he said. Of those who do have jobs, the vast majority are Braille readers.

‘There’s such a strong correlation,’ he said. ‘Investing in kids understanding Braille is an investment in them becoming taxpayers, ultimately. That’s a big deal.’

Learn  more about Xavier Society for the Blind.

Find out about the breadth of programs Catholic Charities provides for people facing physical and emotional challenges.

Read the full story in the Boston Globe.