Archive for the ‘Agencies’ Category

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Heroin’s New Hometown

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Heroin has hit the suburbs. Far too many of us are mourning the loss of children we once knew.

‘”The obituaries have a certain sameness to them,” write J. David Goodman and Michael Wilson in this week’s New York Times, “full of praise and regret for lives cut short, marked by telltale details and omissions. The deaths occurred at home, or at a friend’s house elsewhere on Staten Island. The mourned were often young and white, and although how they died was never mentioned, nearly everyone knew or suspected the cause.

“A 23-year-old man, a cello student in high school and the son of an elevator company vice president died in March. A former high school hockey player who delivered newspapers died in 2013 at 22. Another 23-year-old man who was working construction died at home in July 2012. Family members and autopsy reports revealed that they died from heroin or combinations of drugs including heroin.

“As the problem worsened, (gatherings began being) held at a nearby school, attached to Our Lady Star of the Sea, a Roman Catholic church on Amboy Road. Nearby, in the basement of the church rectory, a Pills Anonymous group meets.”

In Staten Island and suburbs throughout the New York Archdiocese and the nation, the scourge of heroin is tightening its grip. Thirty-six people died in Staten Island from heroin overdoses in 2012, reports The Times, the highest number in at least a decade. The death rate was higher than the city’s other four boroughs had seen in 10 years.

More than a dozen heroin-related overdose deaths occurred in northern Westchester and Putnam counties in the last year as well, reports the Ossining Daily Voice. Tragically, two deaths were reported just six days apart in small, suburban Cortlandt Manor.

Catholic Charities treats and supports those who are struggling to break the cycle of substance abuse. Far too often, substance abusers affect their families, homes, careers, and their health in ways that hurt others, as well as themselves. These programs are designed to touch all stages of the recovery process to assist an individual to become a functioning human being once again and take full advantage of the precious gift of life. Programs range from out-patient clinics and support groups to inpatient recovery programs. Support is also available to family members.

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction?

To find a Catholic Charities agency that offers preventive services click here.

For more help, call our Catholic Charities Help line at: 888-744-7900.

Read the full story in The New York Times

Struggling Teens Explore Careers in Engineering

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Teens from Washington Heights, where per–capita income is half the New York average, balanced on scaffolding, learned the rudiments of how to build a high rise that won’t fall down and took their first steps towards becoming engineers at Liberty Science Center last Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The event, hosted by Catholic Charities Alianza Division and sponsored by the Society of Hispanic Professionals in Engineering, was designed to motivate minority students to explore the possibility of pursuing careers in engineering. Students from the High School for Media and Communications GPS program – short for Graduate, Prepare and Succeed – that participate in Catholic Charities’ Alianza Dominicana were bused from Washington Heights to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. There they met with engineering professionals who answered questions and peeked students’ curiosity as they explored the 300,000 square foot learning center.

Next up for these students is Engineering Day on Saturday, May 10. Also held also at the Liberty Science Center, teens will team up to build their own machines. These engineering immersion experiences fit the mission of Catholic Charities Alianza Dominicana, to assist children, youth and families break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their potential as members of the global economy.

Theology on Tap Goes Latin

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

TOT LogoBy Alice Kenny

Join fellow young adults for fun, camaraderie and a rousing discussion with a Latin flavor when we team up today, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, with Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia at Heights Tavern in happening Washington Heights.

Theology-on-Tap NYC is an opportunity for young adults to explore issues and topics that relate to the Catholic faith in a fun and casual environment.

Tonight we’re teaming with Centro Altagracia and Catholic Charities’ “Feeding our Neighbors” campaign.

  • Feed your social life by joining us.
  • Feed your thirst with…well, you know…
  • And feed our neighbors by bringing canned goods to donate.

Get a 5% discount on your bar check by donating 10 lbs. of food or more!

Wonder what to bring?

Check out our list here and learn more.

That’s tonight, April 29, 2014, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Heights Tavern, 3910 Broadway, NYC.

RSVP at Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia

The Centro Altagracia de Fe y Justicia is dedicated to putting faith into action, promoting social justice, through dynamic collaborations and needs-based initiatives, in service to the communities of Washington Heights and Inwood.

 

Washington Heights Students Go for the Gold

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Teenagers from the streets of Washington Heights grabbed first through sixth prizes in La Plaza Beacon’s Reading for Success Contest. Designed to develop students’ reading comprehension and expand their futures, the prizes tantalized more than a dozen participants, spurring students in this low-income neighborhood to score well on the annual New York State English Language Arts (ELA) exam.

For weeks, participants completed their homework at La Plaza Beacon, part of Catholic Charities’ Alianza Division.

Contest participants then broke into teams of three or four to complete reading and comprehension quizzes and perfect their skills writing essays.

The winner not only scored a top grade on the ELA exam but a restaurant dinner as well. Second-through-sixth place winners celebrated with a pizza party.

La Plaza Beacon teens are now readying for a math contest to prepare them for the upcoming New York State Mathematics Exam later this month.

La Plaza Beacon provides a safe, supervised after-school setting for neighborhood youth. Along with tutoring and homework help, it also offers cultural activities, arts and recreation.

Warning: Avoid Scams That Defraud Immigrants

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

WARNING: Scammers will advertise that they are able to get immigration documents, but may not have the knowledge, training and authorization to provide immigration legal services.

Immigrants defrauded by scammers can lose money and even be put at risk of deportation.

It is very important to get advice from lawyers with immigration experience, or from non-profit agencies that are authorized to provide immigration services under federal law.

Call the New York State (NYS) New Americans Hotline: 1-212-419-3737 or 1-800-566-7636 (toll-free in NYS) for more information and referrals to agencies authorized to provide assistance with immigration matters.

Click here to learn more about the New Americans Hotline.

Find out how Catholic Charities can help.

Check out the New Americans website for more information.